Peer pressure matters in young adults smoking decisions

The peer pressure that leads young people into bad habits like smoking may also be a factor in getting them to quit, suggests a new study examining the social influence on young smokers.

The study also found that teens whose parents strongly disapproved of them smoking or whose best friends did not smoke, may be less likely to continue to do so after first trying it.

The study, in the September issue of Nicotine & Tobacco Research, followed 278 male and 433 female smokers for five years starting in their senior year of high school in 1990. The researchers focused on five factors that might influence smoking: peer pressure and parental approval, beliefs about smoking, rebelliousness, substance abuse and problem behaviors, social bonds (at school and with family and peers) and perceived health status.

"Although many of these variables had been investigated as possible predictors of quitting among adolescents in previous research, the goal of this study was to determine whether these variables might be useful in understanding the smoking-cessation process during the transition from late adolescence to young adulthood," explains lead author Joan S. Tucker, Ph.D., of the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, Calif.

Tucker and her colleagues were particularly interested in seeing if there were any differences between male and female participants in these predictors, given that gender can play a role in ability to quit and effectiveness of several cessation programs.

The researchers used questionnaires to assess the high school students' beliefs and social structures. For instance, to assess peer pressure and parental approval, they asked the teens whether the adult most important to them was a smoker, how often they were with people their own age who smoked, how often their best friend smoked and whether their parents and friends would approve of them smoking.

To evaluate smoking-related beliefs, they asked the participants abou

Contact: Warren Robak
Center for the Advancement of Health

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