Three risk factors why young people start smoking

We all know about cigarettes and their damaging health effects.  So why would anyone start smoking.  It’s impossible to pinpoint a single reason for why someone takes up smoking but a new study identifies three risk factors for starting.

Researchers at the University of Montreal School of Public Health, suggest that for people between the ages of 18 and 24, the three biggest risk factors for starting smoking are:

  • Being impulsive
  • Using alcohol regularly
  • Getting poor grades in school.

The paper was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.  Researchers looked at data from 1,293 teenagers from the Montreal area in Canada who were part of the ‘Nicotine Dependence in Teens’ study that began in 1999. Teenagers in the study were followed up in 22 periods of time from when they were an average age of 12.7 to when they were an average age of 24.

By the final period of time, 75% of the young people had tried smoking. 44%  of these started smoking before entering high school, 43%  percent started during high school, and 14% started some time in the six years post-high school.

Not all those who tried cigarettes continued to smoke, but researchers found that impulsivity, poor grades and regular alcohol use were the three risk factors associated with those who began smoking after high school.  These were the young people between 18 and 24 years of age.

Researcher Prof Jennifer O’Loughlin, speculated that one potential reason impulsivity may play a role in smoking in young adulthood is because “parents of impulsive children exercise tighter control when they are living with them at home to protect their children from adopting behaviours that can lead to smoking, and this protection may diminish over time.”

Alcohol consumption could also be linked with starting smoking because alcohol “reduces inhibitions and self-control,” she added in the statement.

Professor O’Loughlin noted that the findings suggest smoking prevention programmes shouldn’t just target younger teenagers but, but older teenagers and those in their early twenties.  She added, “The predictors of initiation in young adults may provide direction for relevant preventive interventions.”

Back to School: Looking Good, Feeling Healthy pt1

Summer is still with us but there are signs of autumn in the air.  Schools are going back over the next few weeks, there are blackberries hanging from bushes and a bumper crop of apples in the orchards.  So it is the time of year to talk about how to reach young people with information and encouragement to pursue healthy lifestyles.  Whether it is in the classroom or through health fairs or special assemblies, appealing to young people that being healthy is good for your looks has proven a useful and novel angle to take.  Here is the first in a two part look at some GASP resources that can help you with this approach …to read the rest of this article click here »