, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 159-167

The Association Among Adolescents' Tobacco Use, Their Beliefs and Attitudes, and Friends' and Parents' Opinions of Smoking

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Objective: To examine adolescents' attitudes toward smoking, the presence of a false consensus effect, and the influence of peer and parental attitudes about smoking choices on being a susceptible, never smoker; an experimenter; and a current smoker. Methods: Data from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's 1996 National Study of Tobacco Price Sensitivity, Behavior, and Attitudes Among Teenagers and Young Adults (RWJF survey) were used to produce national estimates of the tobacco use behaviors and attitudes of adolescents enrolled in high school. Three logistic regression models were estimated to examine which psychosocial variables were associated with three different stages of smoking uptake. Results: Positive attitudes toward tobacco use were associated with a greater likelihood of being a susceptible, never smoker (OR = 1.50), an experimenter (OR = 1.27), and a current smoker (OR = 2.96). Those respondents who believed that 50% or more of all adolescents smoked were more likely to be current smokers (OR = 1.45). The importance of the opinions of one's friends and parents about his/her choice to smoke was also found to be associated with smoking behavior. Conclusions: Preventing the initiation and continuation of smoking among adolescents will require interventions that address individual attitudes with respect to tobacco and will also need to present a clear picture of adolescent smoking. In addition, prevention and intervention messages should emphasize the importance of parental opinions on youth tobacco use regardless of parental tobacco use behavior.