Objectives: This study tests whether there is an association between high visibility of smoking, perceived acceptability of smoking, and where youth smoke.
Methods: Surveys of 9,762 students in grades 8-10 and 1,586 parents in 15 Minnesota communities asked about the frequency of and opinions of adult and youth smoking in various indoor and outdoor public places. Chi-square analysis and ANOVAs compared smokers and nonsmokers.
Results: More smoking than nonsmoking youth reported often seeing adults and teens smoking in all locations. Forty-two percent of students often noticed adults and 35% often noticed teens smoking outdoors, also the most frequent location where teens report smoking. Students perceived adult and teen smoking as more acceptable in restaurants, recreation centers, and outdoor gathering places. More student smokers than nonsmokers believe that smoking is acceptable for both adults and teens. Of the parent sample, 52% often observed adults and 36% often observed youth smoking outdoors. Nonsmoking parents observed adult and teen smoking more often than parents who smoke.
Conclusions: The data support an association between the frequency that youth observe smoking in various locations and the perception that smoking is socially acceptable by smoking status. Policies that restrict smoking in various locations will reduce both visibility and perceived acceptability of smoking in those locations.