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Teens are listening when people tell them not to smoke

June 20, 2017

When parents tell their children not to smoke and schools teach antismoking lessons, teens are listening, according to a new report in the American Journal of Public Health.

Antismoking messages from parents and schools have a particularly strong influence on 11- to 14-year-olds who haven't started smoking, say Paul Mowery, M.A., of RTI International and colleagues. These teens are less likely to be open to the idea of smoking in the future.

Nonsmoking students of all ages who had friends who smoked or who said they would use or wear a tobacco promotion item like a T-shirt or lighter were more likely to be open to the possibility of smoking, Mowery and colleagues discovered.

The findings reinforce previous research suggesting that pre-teens and middle school students may be the best targets for smoking prevention programs, Mowery says.

"Since the 1970s, the average age of first trying a cigarette and the average age of smoking daily has decreased," he notes.

The researchers analyzed data from nationwide surveys of teens and tobacco use taken in 1999 and 2000. The 1999 study surveyed 15,058 students in 131 schools, while the 2000 survey included 35,828 students in 324 schools.

Half of the 11- to 18-year-olds surveyed said they had tried smoking at least once. Mowery and colleagues classified most of these teens as "early experimenters" - those who had smoked fewer than 25 cigarettes in their lifetime.

Nearly a quarter of those who said they had never smoked admitted they were open to the possibility of smoking someday. The percentage of nonsmoking teens who said they were open to smoking increased with age until age 14, the researchers found.

Almost 8 percent of the students were "established smokers" who said they smoked on 20 of the last 30 days before the survey. Boys and white teens were more likely than girls and black teens to be established smokers.

The study was supported by the American Legacy Foundation.

Health Behavior News Service: (202) 387-2829 or www.hbns.
Interviews: Contact Kathy Pitts, RTI International Media at (919) 990-8388.
American Journal of Public Health: (202) 777-2511 or www.ajph.

Center for the Advancement of Health
Contact: Ira R. Allen
Director of Public Affairs