All the Cool Kids Are Doing It

Smoking may be more common for popular kids in Hispanic high schools

(RxWiki News) Smoking makes people smell bad. Who could get away with such a gross habit? The popular kids in high school may set a bad example for everyone else that smoking is cool.

A recent study surveyed teenagers about their smoking habits and how they saw others’ smoking habits. Results found that popularity may be a factor in smoking behavior.

"Talk to your kids - smoking is a killer."

Thomas W. Valente, PhD, professor of preventive medicine at Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, led an investigation into adolescent smoking.

For the study, 1,950 primarily Hispanic ninth and 10th grade students in Southern California from 2006-2007 were surveyed about their smoking behavior.

Questions about how often they smoked, how they thought other students felt about smoking and who the students were friends with helped researchers determine student attitudes behind smoking.

The results found that teenagers were likely to do what their close friends did and what popular kids did when it came to smoking.

The kids with the most friends, measured by who claimed them as friends the most times, were labeled as popular.

A total of 26 percent of ninth graders and 28 percent of 10th graders reported smoking. In the ninth grade 17 percent and in the 10th grade 44 percent thought other students smoked.

Dr. Valente and his colleagues did similar studies on 399 teenagers in Jalisco, Mexico in 2012, 1,486 in Southern California middle school kids in 2005, 2,525 high school kids all over the U.S. in 2001.

Dr. Valente said, “Adolescence is a time when students turn to others to figure out what is important. These are four different samples, now, coming from different places—and the finding is consistent.”

“That we’re still seeing this association more than 10 years later, despite marginal declines in smoking, suggests that popularity is a strong predictor of smoking behavior.”

This study was published in September in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Funding was provided by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, no conflicts of interest were found.

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Review Date: 
September 17, 2012