Context: School suspension may have unintended consequences in contributing to problem behaviors, including dropping out from school, substance use, and antisocial behavior. Tobacco use is an early-onset problem behavior, but prospective studies of the effects of suspension on tobacco use are lacking.
Method: Longitudinal school-based survey of students drawn as a two-stage cluster sample, administered in 2002 and 2003, in Washington State, United States, and Victoria, Australia. The study uses statewide representative samples of students in Grades 7 and 9 (N = 3,599).
Results: Rates of tobacco use were higher for Victorian than Washington State students. School suspension remained a predictor of current tobacco use at 12-month follow-up, after controlling for established risk factors including prior tobacco and other drug use for Grade 7 but not Grade 9 students.
Conclusions: School suspension is associated with early adolescent tobacco use, itself an established predictor of adverse outcomes in young people. Findings suggest the need to explore process mechanisms and alternatives to school suspensions as a response to challenging student behavior in early adolescence.