Treat Teen Smoking as Problem Behavior, Not Health Issue, Research Says

Between 1998 and 1999, researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder, carried out a study of risk and protective factors that are associated with adolescents' involvement in cigarette smoking and that influence initiation of cigarette smoking in adolescence.

The researchers analyzed data from a set of surveys conducted annually between 1989 and 1992 of more than 1,500 racially and socioeconomically diverse adolescents.

Key Findings

  • The researchers found that adolescent smoking was more strongly associated with other problem behaviors, such as delinquency and drinking, than with health-compromising behaviors, such as a sedentary lifestyle and poor dietary habits.

  • They also found that in addition to factors closely related to smoking (such as having parents or friends who smoke), there are psychosocial factors with a less obvious connection (such as religiosity, positive orientation to school, and positive relationships with adults) that prove to be strong protective factors against smoking.

  • One conclusion of the research is that prevention and intervention efforts should approach adolescent smoking more as a problem behavior than a health-related behavior, addressing personal and social factors associated with a range of problem behaviors in adolescents.