Approximately 36 percent of all US adolescents are current smokers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that five million of todays adolescents will die prematurely from smoking-related illnesses, creating approximately $200 billion in future health care costs.
Why so many adolescents start and continue to smoke despite the associated health risks remains an important public health question. Previous research has shown that the nicotine contained in cigarettes is a psychostimulant and can ameliorate depressive symptoms by inducing feelings of euphoria and relaxation.
Senior author Janet Audrain, PhD, from the University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center and Department of Psychiatry, and researchers from Georgetown University are exploring the social, psychological and genetic factors that influence adolescents decisions about smoking. Audrains group surveyed over 1,100 ninth grade students. These students completed a survey that assessed current smoking practices, exposure to other smokers, levels of depression, and receptivity to tobacco advertising. Demographic data including age, gender, and race/ethnicity were also collected.
Sixty percent of the students reported that they were never smokers, i.e., never tried or experimented with smoking, even a few puffs. Forty percent reported ever being smokers, i.e., ever smoked at least a partial or whole cigarette. The data show that adolescents who a
Contact: Olivia Fermano
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine