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What a Young Teen Thinks About Cigarettes Reveals Likelihood to Also Use Drugs and Alcohol

posted 11:11 PM EST, Wed September 30, 2009
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What a Young Teen Thinks About Cigarettes Reveals Likelihood to Also Use Drugs and Alcohol © Photo Creit: Matt Caplin

Teens that think smoking is OK are far more likely to also use marijuana and alcohol.

Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College wanted to get a better understanding of what risk factors predispose young teens to trying cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana and other drugs; so they developed a survey that was administered to 2400 inner city New York 6th and 7th graders that asked about substance use history and psychological factors thought to increase a person’s likelihood of poly drug use.

They found that a teen’s attitudes and perceptions influence the likelihood of poly drug use considerably. Finding that:

  • Teen girls that hang out with girls who have permissive or ambivalent attitudes about smoking are far more likely to report poly drug use, while teen boys that believe that many other boys of their same age also smoke, are far more likely to report poly drug use
  • Both teen boys and girls who have friends that use alcohol or tobacco are more likely to report poly drug use
  • Permissive parental attitudes about smoking or drinking are related to an increased probability of poly drug use amongst both sexes

The researchers recommend that parents teach their kids assertiveness skills to reject drugs, alcohol and tobacco and to closely monitor a teen’s group of friends. Study author Dr. Jennifer A. Epstein commented, saying, “Moms and dads are critical role models and should let their attitudes against drug use be known. It's also important to keep an eye on their child's social circle, since, especially for girls, it's their friends who are so central to influencing their behavior."

The researchers say their findings are significant and could be used to help develop gender specific prevention programs for young teens. They say that programs that target multiple substances (alcohol, tobacco and drugs) may be more effective, since attitudes about cigarettes are clearly linked to alcohol and drug experimentation.

The research was funded in part by NIDA and is published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Substance Abuse

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