Smoking among adolescents in China: an analysis based upon the meanings of smoking theory

Am J Health Promot. 2006 Jan-Feb;20(3):171-8. doi: 10.4278/0890-1171-20.3.171.


Purpose: This study utilized the Meanings of Behavior theory to examine whether meanings of smoking differ among adolescents in China who were never smokers, ever smokers, and past-30-day smokers. The Meanings of Behavior theory argues that affect takes precedence over cognitive constructs in motivating behavior This study also examined whether the associations among meanings of smoking and smoking behavior vary by age and gender

Design: This study was a cross-sectional study using survey data.

Setting: Middle and high schools in seven cities in China.

Subjects: A random sample of 4724 students comprised this study.

Measure: A self-administered questionnaire asked about smoking behavior and incorporated the meanings of smoking scale.

Results: Overall prevalence rates of ever smokers and past-30-day smokers in this sample were 24.3% and 9.0%. Smoking was much more prevalent in boys than in girls. Students in the 11th grade were more likely than those in the 7th grade to have tried smoking at some time and to have smoked within the past 30 days. Odds ratios confirmed that meanings of smoking were significantly associated with smoking behaviors.

Conclusions: Meanings of smoking are associated with smoking behavior among Chinese adolescents in that smoking may connote autonomy, control, or social relatedness. Prevention programs in China require new strategies to incorporate meanings of smoking in order to meet adolescent psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and social connections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Age Distribution
  • Child
  • China / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Factors
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Smoking / psychology*