Background: The perceived risks and benefits of smoking may play an important role in determining adolescents' susceptibility to initiating smoking. Our study examined the perceived risks and benefits of smoking among adolescents who demonstrated susceptibility or non susceptibility to smoking initiation.
Methods: In October-November 2011, we conducted a population-based cross-sectional study in Jhaukhel and Duwakot Villages in Nepal. Located in the mid-hills of Bhaktapur District, 13 kilometers east of Kathmandu, Jhaukhel and Duwakot represent the prototypical urbanizing villages that surround Nepal's major urban centers, where young people have easy access to tobacco products and are influenced by advertising. Jhaukhel and Duwakot had a total population of 13,669, of which 15% were smokers. Trained enumerators used a semi-structured questionnaire to interview 352 randomly selected 14- to 16-year-old adolescents. The enumerators asked the adolescents to estimate their likelihood (0%-100%) of experiencing various smoking-related risks and benefits in a hypothetical scenario.
Results: Principal component analysis extracted four perceived risk and benefit components, excluding addiction risk: (i) physical risk I (lung cancer, heart disease, wrinkles, bad colds); (ii) physical risk II (bad cough, bad breath, trouble breathing); (iii) social risk (getting into trouble, smelling like an ashtray); and (iv) social benefit (looking cool, feeling relaxed, becoming popular, and feeling grown-up). The adjusted odds ratio of susceptibility increased 1.20-fold with each increased quartile in perception of physical Risk I. Susceptibility to smoking was 0.27- and 0.90-fold less among adolescents who provided the highest estimates of physical Risk II and social risk, respectively. Similarly, susceptibility was 2.16-fold greater among adolescents who provided the highest estimates of addiction risk. Physical risk I, addiction risk, and social benefits of cigarette smoking related positively, and physical risk II and social risk related negatively, with susceptibility to smoking.
Conclusion: To discourage or prevent adolescents from initiating smoking, future intervention programs should focus on communicating not only the health risks but also the social and addiction risks as well as counteract the social benefits of smoking.