Adult influences may predispose teens to smoke

December 28, 2002

Social influences play a large role in getting teens to start smoking cigarettes, underscoring the need to supplement laws that regulate tobacco purchase with strategies to reduce teens' access through people they know, like parents and other adults, according to a new survey of nearly 500 teens.

"Although it is important to continue to reduce commercial availability of tobacco to minors, these results suggest it is essential to develop strategies to decrease social availability, particularly from parents and other adults," says study author Susan I. Woodruff, Ph.D., an adjunct professor at San Diego State University's Graduate School of Public Health in San Diego, Calif.

Sales laws have succeeded in decreasing commercial availability of tobacco to teens, although adolescent smoking rates have not yet decreased as a result. Most smokers start before age 18, and more than 3,000 young people become regular smokers daily, according to the study.

Woodruff and colleagues explored the social aspects of smoking initiation with the help of 478 seventh- and eighth-graders, 12 to 15 years old, who had never tried "even a puff" of tobacco. The students, more than half of whom were Hispanic, took a smoking survey on two occasions, spaced a year apart.

More than 6 percent of the participants reported having tried smoking one year after the first survey. To find out how these students differed from those who hadn't smoked, Woodruff and colleagues performed a prospective analysis, which watches study participants over time as behaviors or conditions develop. They found that at the start of the one-year study period, those students who reported a greater ease of getting cigarettes from parents and more cigarette offers from adults who weren't their parents were more likely to try smoking during the subsequent year.

"These findings suggest that reducing social access and access at home may be important in controlling experimentation among younger adolescents," Woodruff says. The study results are published in the January/February issue of the American Journal of Health Behavior.

The kids who found it easy to get cigarettes from their parents weren't necessarily getting cigarette handouts. Instead, another study finding -- that more than 99 percent of the students reported that their parents would be upset about their smoking cigarettes -- suggests these students may have been swiping cigarettes from their parents.

"More in-depth surveys and formative research are needed to better understand the dynamics of adult and parent provision of cigarettes to adolescents," Woodruff notes.

In addition to their prospective analysis, the researchers performed a cross-sectional analysis, which is a snapshot of a point in time. This analysis revealed that cigarette offers from friends and classmates were the strongest predictors of smoking. This finding could be interpreted two ways: Offers from friends may lead to smoking, or teens who have tried smoking may associate with others who smoke, according to the study.

One thing is clear from the study findings: Social sources, whether peers or adults, were more important as a means for teens to get cigarettes for experimentation than commercial sources. This social influence will increase over time, according to Woodruff.

"Social sources will likely become more important for underage smokers because of continuing retail price increases and increased retailer compliance with sales laws," she says.

Woodruff and colleagues recommend media campaigns to raise parental and community awareness about teens' social access to cigarettes. Such efforts "may be effective in further reducing availability and ultimately producing lower adolescent smoking rates," Woodruff concludes.
This research was funded by the California Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program.

Health Behavior News Service: 202-387-2829 or
Interviews: Contact Susan I. Woodruff, PhD, at
American Journal of Health Behavior: Visit or e-mail

Center for Advancing Health

Related Smoking Articles from Brightsurf:

Smoking rates falling in adults, but stroke survivors' smoking rates remain steady
While the rate of Americans who smoke tobacco has fallen steadily over the last two decades, the rate of stroke survivors who smoke has not changed significantly.

What is your risk from smoking? Your network knows!
A new study from researchers at Penn's Annenberg School for Communication found that most people, smokers and non-smokers alike, were nowhere near accurate in their answers to questions about smoking's health effects.

Want to quit smoking? Partner up
Kicking the habit works best in pairs. That's the main message of a study presented today at EuroPrevent 2019, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

Smoking and mortality in Asia
In this analysis of data from 20 studies conducted in China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and India with more than 1 million participants, deaths associated with smoking continued to increase among men in Asia grouped by the years in which they were born.

Predictors of successfully quitting smoking among smokers registered at the quit smoking clinic at a public hospital in northeastern Malaysia
In the current issue of Family Medicine and Community Health, Nur Izzati Mohammad et al. consider how cigarette smoking is one of the risk factors leading to noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular and respiratory system diseases and cancer.

Restaurant and bar smoking bans do reduce smoking, especially among the highly educated
Smoking risk drops significantly in college graduates when they live near areas that have completely banned smoking in bars and restaurants, according to a new study in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

How the UK smoking ban increased wellbeing
Married women with children reported the largest increase in well-being following the smoking bans in the UK in 2006 and 2007 but there was no comparable increase for married men with children.

Smoking study personalizes treatment
A simple blood test is allowing Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) researchers to determine which patients should be prescribed varenicline (Chantix) to stop smoking and which patients could do just as well, and avoid side effects, by using a nicotine patch.

A biophysical smoking gun
While much about Alzheimer's disease remains a mystery, scientists do know that part of the disease's progression involves a normal protein called tau, aggregating to form ropelike inclusions within brain cells that eventually strangle the neurons.

A case where smoking helped
A mutation in the hemoglobin of a young woman in Germany was found to cause her mild anemia.

Read More: Smoking News and Smoking Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to