Objective: To describe the prevalence of teenage smoking and the factors associated with smoking in this age group in South America.
Methods: Searches for articles concerning teenage smoking in Latin America were conducted in two bibliographic databases: MEDLINE (1966-2002) and Latin American and Caribbean Literature on the Health Sciences ("LILACS") (1982-2002). We also reviewed governmental and nongovernmental documents and Web sites. From the 315 articles that we identified, we considered 45 to be relevant for this paper.
Results: In each of the countries that we studied, there was often a wide range found in prevalence levels, depending in part on the particular age range studied and on the definition of smokers that was used. The leading risk factor for teenage smoking was smoking among siblings and friends. Additional risk factors were poor academic performance, being older, male gender, having paid work, and having parents who were separated.
Conclusions: Additional population-based studies with teenagers should be carried out, and more uniform criteria for defining smokers should be developed.