Perceived Access to Tobacco Predicts Youth Smoking

Students likely to become regular smokers if they perceive easy access and have smoking friends

WEDNESDAY, July 16 (HealthDay News) -- Young adolescents who believe that they have easy access to cigarettes are more likely to become regular smokers, especially if they have friends who smoke, according to study findings published in the July/August issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

Chyke A. Doubeni, M.D., of the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Mass., and colleagues conducted baseline interviews with 1,195 students aged 11 to 14, including 168 who had previously initiated smoking.

After four years, the researchers found that 177 students had newly initiated smoking and that 109 had become regular smokers. Although the researchers did not find a significant synergism between perceived accessibility and peer smoking on smoking initiation (unadjusted synergy index, 1.04), they did find that there was a significant synergism between the two factors for regular smoking (unadjusted synergy index, 2.70). They calculated that the proportion of regular smoking attributable to the combined effects of these two factors was 44.2 percent.

"These findings suggest that youths who have peer smokers and perceive easy access may be at high risk for higher levels of smoking and may warrant greater attention in clinical and public health settings," the authors write. "Family physicians and pediatricians currently screen for risk behavior, including peer influences and tobacco use, as part of the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment program. We recommend that clinicians routinely ask youths about their perceptions of the accessibility of tobacco and exposure to peer smokers."

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