Objectives: This report considers the extent to which depression and anxiety predict smoking onset in adolescence.
Methods: A 6-wave cohort design was used to study a sample of 14- and 15-year-old students (n = 2032) drawn from 44 secondary schools in the state of Victoria, Australia. The students were surveyed between 1992 and 1995 with a computerized questionnaire that included a 7-day retrospective diary for tobacco use and a structured psychiatric interview.
Results: Experimental smokers were 29 times more likely than non-smokers to make a transition into daily use in the subsequent 6 months. Depression and anxiety, along with peer smoking, predicted initiation of experimental smoking. Specifically, depression and anxiety accentuated risks associated with peer smoking and predicted experimentation only in the presence of peer smoking.
Conclusions: The finding that experimental smoking is an overwhelmingly strong predictor of later daily smoking focuses attention on smoking initiation. Depressive and anxiety symptoms are associated with higher risks for initiation through an increased susceptibility to peer smoking influences. Promoting the psychological well-being of adolescents and addressing perceived interpersonal benefits of smoking may play a role in the prevention of adolescent tobacco use.