Context: Understanding how advertising and other risk and demographic factors affect adolescent susceptibility to smoking would allow for the development of more effective youth-targeted tobacco prevention and cessation programs and policies.
Objective: To examine the effect of various demographic and risk factors on different stages of smoking among adolescents.
Design: A nationally representative cross-sectional survey, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Survey of Tobacco Price Sensitivity, Behavior, and Attitudes Among Teenagers and Young Adults.
Subjects: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Survey of Tobacco Price Sensitivity, Behavior, and Attitudes Among Teenagers and Young Adults included 17,287 adolescent respondents (aged, 13-19 years) in 1996.
Main outcome measures: Stage of susceptibility and correlates of progression toward regular smoking.
Results: Of all never [corrected] smoking adolescents, 32% were susceptible smokers (have never smoked, but might) with younger adolescents almost 3 times more likely than older adolescents to be susceptible. Female subjects were 50% [corrected] more likely than male subjects to be susceptible. In addition to exposure to others' smoking, owning or willingness to own tobacco promotional items, having a favorite cigarette advertisement, skipping school, poor school performance, and lack of attendance in religious activities were associated with progression along the uptake continuum.
Conclusions: Improved understanding of the tobacco use trajectories of adolescents and the risk factors associated with progression will help clinicians and tobacco control advocates create effective youth-targeted interventions and policies. Findings suggest that physicians and other health care providers should redouble their efforts to ask preadolescents and young adults about smoking or the likelihood of their smoking. Nonsmokers should also be advised about the addictive nature of tobacco products and the resulting loss of control that accompanies addiction.