Most people start smoking cigarettes or using tobacco before 18 years of age in the United States. In fact, about 90 percent of people in the US start smoking by that age. For this reason, smoking prevention should start during adolescence. Parents and teens tend to spend less time together during this time in the child’s development, so outside influences such as peer pressure have an increased chance to get kids to smoke.

The influence of peers has been blamed for adolescent smoking. The Psychological Bulletin analyzed 75 studies regarding youths smoking. Their analysis discovered that children ranging from age 10 to 19 are more likely to start smoking if they have friends who smoke. Unfortunately, these young people frequently continue to smoke as adults, leading to the myriad health dangers associated with long term tobacco use. Because the US is a collectivist culture, what the people around them do influence children’s behaviors. This influence is not as strong in cultures that emphasize individualism.

Collectivist countries include lands such as:

  • The United States.
  • Australia.
  • China.
  • South Korea.
  • Jordan
  • Portugal.
  • The United Kingdom.
  • Canada.
  • The Netherlands.

The study also showed that ethnic origins might be a factor in peer influenced teen smoking. Children from with a European based heritage were less likely to be influenced by peer smoking than were children whose heritage was Asian in ethnic background.

teen peer pressure smokingAnother result that researchers found interesting was that the closer friends are, the more chance they have to start smoking at an early age. These friendly teens do not influence whether the individuals continued to smoke after reaching adulthood, however. If the teens were addicted to tobacco smoking, they would most likely continue to smoke as adults. This study answered this question since it determined that teens smoke because their friends smoke.

The concept that teens smoke because their friends smoke is relevant information. This knowledge helps public health officials and parents know where to start to combat the problem of teen tobacco use. Teens can perhaps be given tools to stay away from smoking and build refusal skills at the same time.

Study Results

The result of these studies is crucially important. Educators and scientists can continue to look at the network of people surrounding teens and all the possible influences that may lead to teenagers smoking. Instead of looking at individual teenagers, researchers should look at the networks of people that surround adolescents, and determine ways to influence those people as well as the teens themselves.

Since peer influences cause about half of the teenage cigarette use, parents and health care professionals need to discover ways to influence the teen, their friends and individuals who influence these young people to enable them to make better choices about tobacco use. Behaviors happen to groups of people, so perhaps information and refusal techniques can be spread in the same way.

Successful Programs that Reduce Youth Tobacco Use

Some widespread actions had reduced or eliminated teenage tobacco use when they were implemented. Higher priced tobacco products through increasing taxes, prohibiting smoking in public places, and raising the smoking age to 21 years old have aided in reducing the number of teens smoking. Media coverage, as well as posters and online advertising, have also been used to reduce the number of teens smoking. Any community or school program that encourages a tobacco free lifestyle also slow down the number of teens who start or continue to smoke. Using all of these concepts in combination have been shown to prevent teenage tobacco use when used together.

Social and Environmental Factors that Relate to Lower Smoking Numbers Amongst Teens

Some environmental and social aspects that have been shown to be related to a reduction in smoking levels in teenagers include:

  • Participation in religion.
  • Strong racial or ethnic identification.
  • Higher academic aspirations and achievement.

Smoking has become a leading cause of illness, lung cancer, and death around the world. If social influence can start a teen smoking and keep them doing it, parents and professionals need to discover ways to use this same influence to use social influences to get adolescents and teens to avoid smoking in the first place or to quit smoking if they’ve started. It’s much easier to stop people from developing the smoking habit than to get them to stop smoking once they’ve started.