Home smoking policy related to adolescents' decision to smoke

June 24, 2000

The rules parents set about adult smoking in the house may influence their teenagers' decision to try smoking, suggest the results of a study.

Current smoking prevention efforts tend to focus on peer influences on smoking behavior, sometimes neglecting parental influences, according to lead author Rae Jean Proescholdbell of Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ.

"Although peer influences have been shown to be powerful predictors of adolescent smoking, parental influences are both potentially important and relatively neglected in smoking prevention efforts," said Proescholdbell.

Previous research suggests that other parenting practices play a role in reducing adolescent smoking as well. These practices include discussion of smoking, punishment of smoking, and rules against it, according to the study.

The smoking policy of a home can range from permissive, to somewhat restrictive (allowing smoking in certain areas), to completely restrictive (no smoking in the house).

Previous research has found that other types of indoor smoking restrictions appear to decrease adult smoking and adolescent smoking initiation, including workplace, public transportation, recreational facility, and retail area smoking restrictions.

Proescholdbell and colleagues used data from a smoking survey of over 6,000 adolescents to test the effect of home smoking policy on adolescent smoking. They found that middle and high school students with restrictive home smoking policies were less likely to start smoking. "Middle school students with permissive home smoking policies were 1.32 times more likely, and high school students 1.25 times more likely, to have tried smoking than were students with somewhat restrictive home smoking policies," said Proescholdbell.

"Our findings suggest that even partially restrictive home smoking policies are associated with fewer adolescents trying smoking," said Proescholdbell. The study results appear in the current issue of Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

Although it appeared to deter the study participants from starting to smoke, a strict home smoking policy did not appear to have any effect on study participants who had already tried smoking at the time of the survey. "Perhaps adolescents who try smoking despite anti-smoking socialization are unlikely to be deterred from further smoking by restrictive home smoking policies," said Proescholdbell.

Middle and high school study participants differed with regards to one study finding involving parental smoking status. While a strict home smoking policy helped deter middle school study participants from attempting smoking regardless of their parents' smoking status, high school students seemed to require a more consistent message. High school students whose parents set a consistent example -- by not smoking and by having a strict home policy -- were less likely to have tried smoking than students with parents who set a more inconsistent example -- by being current or former smokers with restrictive home policies.

"Parents often have less control over older adolescents' behavior, providing them with increased opportunities to try smoking," said Proescholdbell. "In the face of such opportunities, only older adolescents who have received strong anti-smoking socialization may be deterred from trying smoking."

The study structure did not allow the researchers to determine if lenient home smoking policies cause teenage smoking or the other way around -- with teenage smoking leading parents to relax strict policies. Also, they were unable to examine the parent-child relationship, which undoubtedly influences adolescent smoking.

"Despite these limitations, this study indicates that home smoking policy holds promise as one of many tools to prevent adolescent smoking," said Proescholdbell.
Funding for the data collection of this study was provided by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Nicotine & Tobacco Research is the official peer-reviewed quarterly journal of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco. For information about the journal, contact Gary E. Swan, PhD, at 650-859-5322.

Posted by the Center for the Advancement of Health http://www.cfah.org. For information about the Center, call Petrina Chong, pchong@cfah.org 202-387-2829.

Center for Advancing Health

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