August 26, 2009

Peer Pressure Still Plays Big Role In Teen Smoking

A new study has found that friends have a strong influence over whether teenagers move from merely experimenting with cigarettes to becoming full-fledged smokers.

The study showed that 58 percent of the 270 teenagers who had become occasional smokers made it a daily habit by 12th grade.

According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, the likelihood of that happening depended partly on friends and parents.

Teens were also more likely to become smokers when friends or parents smoked.  However, they were less likely to become habitual smokers if their parents had a "positive family management" style, such as monitoring their comings and goings, doling out reasonable punishments for rule-breaking and rewarding good behavior.

Teens that had non-smoking parents who kept tabs on them were at a 31 percent risk of becoming daily smokers.  Teens that had parents who smoked and were also more lax in managing their kids' behavior had a 71 percent chance of smoking.

"We found that parents play an important role in preventing teens' smoking escalation from experimental to daily smoking," lead researcher Dr. Min Jung Kim, a research associate at the University of Washington in Seattle, told Reuters Health in an email.

According to Kim, there are several ways parents can make a difference.

She said that if they smoke they should quit.  Also, she said parents should aim for "effective supervision and appropriate punishment or rewards for children's behavior."

Kim said this includes knowing your children's friends and laying out rules for their behavior, like smoking.

"Parents need to make sure they establish clear guidelines in their families about smoking and discuss these with school-aged children," Kim said.

Previous studies have shown that friends' smoking habits are the best indicator on whether a teenager will become a regular smoker.  However, some researchers say that parents have relatively little influence once their kids hit adolescence.

According to the researchers, the current study suggests otherwise.  This study indicates that parents seem to have an important role in counteracting peer pressure.


On the Net: