Purpose: To estimate the independent effect of cigarette smoking on respiratory tract symptoms and health status indicators among high school seniors.
Design: Consolidated data sets from one-time cross-sectional survey designs.
Setting: High schools in the United States, 1982-1989.
Sample: A total of 26,504 high school seniors, with an 83% response rate.
Measures: Odds ratios for respiratory tract symptoms and health status indicators for cigarette smokers compared with nonsmokers, while controlling for sex, socioeconomic status, and use of other drugs.
Results: High school seniors who were regular cigarette smokers and who began smoking by grade nine were significantly more likely than never smokers to report shortness of breath when not exercising (adjusted odds ratio [OR] = 2.7), coughing spells (OR = 2.1), productive cough (OR = 2.4), and wheezing or gasping (OR = 2.6). These smokers were also more likely to have seen a doctor or other health professional for an emotional or psychologic complaint (OR = 3.0) and to rate their overall health as poorer than average (OR = 2.4). We found strong dose-response relationships for most outcome measures.
Conclusions: Cigarette smoking among high school seniors is associated with respiratory tract symptoms and poorer overall physical health and may be a marker for underlying mental health problems. Smoking prevention activities directed at adolescents should include information on the early adverse health consequences of cigarette smoking.