Teens Who Notice Smokers Are More Apt To Also Light Up
Seeing may be believing when it comes to teens and tobacco, according to new research which suggests that those who tend to notice smoking among their peers are also those most likely to smoke themselves.
And teens who smoke on a weekly or monthly basis are more likely to think that adults donâ€™t care or disapprove of adolescent smoking, say Marla E. Eisenberg, Sc.D., M.P.H., and Jean L. Forster, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the University of Minnesota.
Although the study does not link these factors as causes of teen smoking, the researchers say that these perceptions and attitudes may influence adolescentsâ€™ ideas of whatâ€™s normal even more than factors such as a teenâ€™s estimate of how common smoking is among his or her peers.
â€œThe presence or absence of young people smoking in a variety of settings can send a powerful message about appropriate and expected behavior for adolescents,â€ they write in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Cigarette smoking among teens has been on the decline over the last decade, but â€œit remains a common behavior in this age group and a considerable threat to public health,â€ Eisenberg says.
Eisenberg and Forster examined smoking attitudes among 3,128 girls and 3,146 boys in grades eight through 10 from rural Minnesota schools. Seventy-three percent of those surveyed said they had not smoked at all in the previous 30 days, but almost 15 percent said they smoked daily. Almost three-quarters of the students said that they had a friend who smoked, while up to a third had at least one parent who smoked.
Nonsmokers in the group had the most â€œanti-smokingâ€ vision among the students, the researchers found. Nonsmokers were least likely to notice smoking by their peers and most likely to say that adults disapproved of teen smoking, for instance. Among teens who smoked, however, these views varied with how often the students reported smoking.
â€œFor example, 55 percent of nonsmokers felt that adults disapprove of teen smoking compared to 44 percent of past-month smokers, 36 percent of past-week smokers and 31 percent of daily smokers,â€ Eisenberg says.
The researchers acknowledge that their findings may not apply to different racial or ethnic groups or youth living in urban settings.
The study was supported by the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Health Resources and Services Administration.