Smoking Starts in Summer Months, When School's Out
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters Health) - More teens start smoking during the summer months than any other season, according to new research.
These findings suggest that programs aimed at stopping teens from starting the habit should not take place only in schools, and that some way to steer teens away from smoking is needed in the summer, as well, Dr. Stacey L. Stevens of the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse and her colleagues report.
"We can't rely on our schools totally," Stevens told Reuters Health. "The community needs to get involved to help keep kids from smoking--at least in the summertime," she said.
The findings are based on the responses of 826 adolescents, average age 16, who were attending a state-mandated program to help them stop smoking. Stevens explained that in the state of Texas, when a person under 18 is caught purchasing or using tobacco, they are required to perform some type of activity, which can entail attending this course.
When students entered the course, Stevens and her team asked them to indicate the year and the month when they had started smoking.
Reporting here Tuesday at the 130th Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association (news - web sites), Stevens and her team found that 47% of teens said they started smoking during May, June, July or August. The most popular months to start the habit were May and June, they note.
In an interview with Reuters Health, Stevens pointed out that previous research discovered that teens tend to smoke more during the summer holiday than the school year, citing the fact that the warm months are associated with more freedom, more spending money, feeling bored and hanging out with friends. However, in this report, the students reported smoking the same number of cigarettes, on average--11 per day--during all seasons.
Although the current study did not determine why students are more likely to start smoking for the first time during the summer, Stevens said it makes sense that more freedom and free time could provide more opportunities to pick up the habit. "At school, they're supervised from at least 8 to 3," she said. In contrast, in the summer, much of that supervision can vanish, she noted.
Previous research has also found that teens who engage in more extracurricular activities are less likely than others to try drugs or drink alcohol--again, likely because they are supervised during those after-school hours, Stevens added.
Along with getting the larger community to realize that teens may be more likely to start smoking during the summer months, Stevens suggested that summer programs--such as overnight or day camps--be made more available to students. Many of these activities exist, she said, but are often too expensive for many parents to afford. "So making (these programs) so that they're accessible and affordable for kids I think is important," she said.