Peers influence teens to start smoking more than quitting

Last Updated: Thu, Jun 12, 2014 08:15 hrs

Sociologists say that adolescents tend to be more powerful in influencing their friends to start smoking than in helping them to quit.

In a study of adolescent friendship networks and smoking over time, the researchers found that friends exert influence on their peers to both start and quit smoking, but the influence to start is stronger.

"What we found is that social influence matters - it leads nonsmoking friends into smoking and nonsmoking friends can turn smoking friends into nonsmokers," Steven Haas, an associate professor of sociology and demography at Pennsylvania State University said.

"However, the impact is asymmetrical - the tendency for adolescents to follow their friends into smoking is stronger," he said.

Haas, who co-authored the study with David Schaefer, an associate professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University, said there are a number of reasons why peer influence to start smoking is stronger than peer influence to quit.

"In order to become a smoker, kids need to know how to smoke, they need to know where to buy cigarettes and how to smoke without being caught, which are all things they can learn from their friends who smoke," Haas said.

"But, friends are unlikely to be able to provide the type resources needed to help them quit smoking," he added.

Nonsmoking friends do not have access to nicotine replacement products or organized cessation programs to help their friends quit, according to the researchers.

The findings are published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. (ANI)

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