Rates of cigarette smoking among young people in the U.K. remain high and may be increasing. However, few studies have explored smoking behaviour during the mid- to late teens. This paper reports the third wave of a longitudinal study that followed 106 15-year-olds from their last compulsory year at school for 22 months. Using a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods, the study shows that this is a period of considerable flux in smoking behaviour. Becoming a regular smoker is not a straightforward progressive process. The role of friendship groups and social context is highlighted. Smoking prevention programmes should be developed to meet the needs of young people in this transitional period.
Copyright 1999 The Association for Professionals in Services for Adolescents.