Perception that Secondhand Smoke is Dangerous to Others Deters Teen Smoking
Teenage smokers are more likely to quit because they are concerned about
hurting others from secondhand smoke than because they fear for their own
health, according to results of a survey published in the journal Pediatrics.
The study, by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco
and the University of Pennsylvania, concludes that educating young people
about secondhand smoke's harmful effects and encouraging nonsmokers to
speak out should be key elements of anti-tobacco programs.
The study found that among those 14 to 22 years of age in the U.S.,
believing that secondhand smoke harmed nonsmokers more than doubles the
chance that a smoker plans to stop or already has stopped smoking.
"Our study found for the first time that among teens, concerns about
secondhand smoke's harmful effect on others are far more likely to
influence smokers to quit than are worries about their own health," said
Stanton Glantz, PhD, lead author on the study, a professor of medicine at
UCSF and a researcher in the UCSF Institute for Health Policy Studies.
"These results show that teens behave just like grown ups," Glantz
continued. "In the past, tobacco control programs have identified clean
indoor air as an "adult" issue; our work shows that it is an equally
important element of prevention programs directed at teens."
Co-author on the study is Patrick Jamieson, MS, Ed, a graduate student at
the University of Pennsylvania.
The survey interviewed 300 smokers and 300 nonsmokers between the ages of
14 and 22 in the United States. It found that nonsmokers were more likely
to consider smoking risky than were smokers, and also were twice as likely
to consider secondhand smoke dangerous than smokers. Equally important,
the only statistically significant predictor of smokers' planning to stop
or having actually sopped smoking was believing that secondhand smoke
The authors note that the results are from a one-time, cross-sectional
study, and so cause and effect should be interpreted more cautiously than
with longitudinal studies, which follow people over time.
Nonetheless, they conclude, the findings are consistent with results of
longitudinal studies of similar questions in adults, as well as econometric
studies and focus-group studies of anti-tobacco advertising in teens, which
indicate that secondhand smoke is one of three highly effective messages
for reaching teens. (The other two effective messages are educating people
about addiction and about the anti-tobacco industry's dishonest behavior --
such as the advertisements run in the California and other state tobacco
"Encouraging nonsmoking teens as well as adults to object to breathing
secondhand smoke and encouraging creation of smoke-free homes is a
productive tobacco control strategy for youth," the authors conclude.
The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute, the Robert
Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the
University of Pennsylvania.