Background: Smoking among adolescents remains unacceptably high and the difference in potential risk factors for smoking initiation between male and female adolescents has been explored. Although the association between smoking initiation and dieting behaviour has been observed among girls, the mechanism of the association is unknown.
Objective: To examine prospectively the association between perceived importance of being thin at baseline and smoking initiation among girls.
Design: A four year prospective cohort survey including perceived importance of being thin at baseline and smoking behaviour, conducted in 1993 and 1996.
Setting and participants: 273 Massachusetts female adolescents aged 12-15 years at baseline who reported having smoked no more than one cigarette by the time of the baseline survey, drawn from households sampled by random digit dialing.
Main outcome measure: Progression to established smoking, defined as having smoked 100 or more cigarettes in their lifetime.
Results: After adjusting for age, smoking status at baseline, and race/ethnicity, girls who valued thinness most strongly and somewhat strongly were both more likely to have become established smokers, compared to the girls who valued thinness least strongly. The odds ratios are 4.5 (95% confidence interval (CI), 1.4 to 16.7) and 3.4 (95% CI 1.04 to 10.9), respectively.
Conclusions: The level of perceived importance of being thin among young female adolescents predicts future smoking initiation. Smoking prevention programmes designed for female adolescents may therefore benefit from the inclusion of content related to importance of being thin.