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.”