A questionnaire survey of cigarette smoking completed in six secondary schools by 4773 pupils aged 11-16 years included five items concerning the circumstances of smoking initiation: (1) age at first cigarette; (2) source of supply; (3) location of first smoke; (4) persons present; and (5) perceived degree of coercion. Although there was a highly significant gender difference on the item concerning age at first cigarette, with the average for boys lower than that for girls, the remaining items showed no gender effects. In order to explore further the reasons for the observed higher prevalence of cigarette smoking among teenage girls compared to boys, 33 focus groups were undertaken with girls in Years 7 and 9. These qualitative data provide evidence of the social representations of different groups and of smoking and non-smoking identities. Any understanding of smoking among girls needs to take account the dynamics of girls' membership in groups of never, experimental and regular smokers in determining subsequent smoking behaviour.
Copyright 1999 The Association for Professionals in Services for Adolescents.