Smoking prevention programs may miss minority teens

When it comes to smoking and peer pressure, the influence teenagers have on each other varies depending on culture and ethnicity, which could have implications for smoking prevention programs that target teens, according to a study of a multicultural mix of California 8th-graders.

Previous research, drawing from samples consisting largely of whites, has demonstrated that teenagers often yield to peer pressure and their perceptions of social norms in deciding whether to smoke. This study showed that African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics and Pacific Islanders are less likely than white teenagers to be influenced by these factors in choosing whether to smoke. The finding suggests current smoking prevention programs may not work as effectively for many teenagers in an increasingly diverse population.

Prevention programs tailored to certain ethnic groups may be necessary to prevent these teenagers from starting to smoke, say the studys authors Jennifer B. Unger, PhD, and her associates at the University of Southern California School of Medicine.

"As the U.S. population becomes increasingly multicultural, it will become increasingly important to develop adolescent smoking prevention programs that will be relevant and effective for adolescents of diverse cultural backgrounds," the researchers concluded.

They collected data from anonymous surveys of 5,143 respondents from 68 schools. The average subject was just over the age of 13.

Hispanics and teenagers who identified themselves as having multiple ethnicities were the most likely to have smoked within the past 30 days (22 percent each), white teenagers were in the middle (18 percent) and African American and Asian American teenagers were the least likely (12 percent each) to have smoked.

Similarly, 71 percent of Hispanics were susceptible to smoking, meaning that they either said they would accept a cigarette if a friend offered them one or that they might smoke in the ne

Contact: Jennifer Unger, PhD
Center for the Advancement of Health

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