Skip to main content

Peer Influence Doubles Risk of Teen Smoking

Peer Influence Doubles Risk of Teen Smoking

Perhaps it is no surprise to learn that a teen’s peers will influence whether the teen will smoke. However, the magnitude of the effect is staggering as new research suggests peer influence can double the risk of a teen deciding to smoke.

In the United States, 90 percent of smokers pick up the habit by age 18, making adolescence a critical time for smoking-prevention efforts.

Peer influence has long been known as a major risk factor for adolescent smoking, but findings have varied about how big the risk is or how this dynamic unfolds.

Investigators performed a rigorous meta-analysis of 75 longitudinal teen smoking studies. The combined analysis finds that having friends who smoke doubles the risk that children ages 10 to 19 will start smoking and continue smoking.

It also found that peer influence is more powerful in collectivist cultures than in those where individualism is the norm.

The paper appears the journal Psychological Bulletin.

There has been a great deal of research about peer influences on adolescents, says the study’s senior author, Dolores Albarracín, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

However, past review has often relied on individual studies. “Meta-analysis is a summary of all we know,” she says, “giving us a more reliable, robust number that is better supported by the facts.”

“One of our most intriguing findings is that culture actually matters in how much influence adolescents have on their peers,” says the study’s lead author, Jiaying Liu, Ph.D..

“Meta-analysis allowed us to examine studies from across the globe. We predicted that people in collectivistic cultures would be more likely to be influenced by peers around them, and that held true.

In those most collectivistic countries, adolescents whose peers smoke are 4.3 times more likely to pick up smoking compared to people who have no peers smoking. By contrast, having peers who smoke made adolescents from those most individualist countries 1.89 times more likely to smoke.”

The study included data from 16 countries, both collectivistic — for example, China, South Korea, Jordan, and Portugal — and individualistic like the United States, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

The authors also examined the ethnic origins of the adolescents in each study, regardless of nationality.

“We found that peer influence was much weaker in samples with higher proportions of adolescents with a European background, but much stronger in samples with higher proportions of adolescents with an Asian background,” Liu says.

This finding about ethnic and cultural background may also explain why the results of teen smoking studies have varied in how big an effect peer influence has.

In addition, the study found that closer friends were more likely to influence peers to start smoking when compared to more distant friends. The closeness of peer friendships did not impact whether adolescents who smoke continued to smoke, however, indicating that perhaps the addictive nature of tobacco was an overriding factor.

The research design allowed investigators to better avoid what is often seen as the “chicken or the egg” problem of peer influence smoking studies: Do teens influence one another to smoke, or do those who smoke simply tend to become friends?

“By including only longitudinal studies, where peer influence was measured at an earlier time and adolescent smoking outcomes at a later date, we were better able to establish that peer influence led to the adolescent smoking outcomes, rather than the other way around,” says Liu.

The researchers hope that by providing a better understanding of the risk factors for teen smoking, they can help inform more targeted prevention efforts. By knowing who is most at risk, parents and public health officials alike can give teenagers the tools to resist tobacco.

“It’s not enough just to say, ‘Don’t smoke it’s bad for you,'” says Albarracín. “How are teenagers going to deal with temptation on a daily basis? We need much more specific campaigns dealing with normative influence — for example, pointing out how many adolescents don’t smoke. There can be more messaging in schools and training for parents on how to build refusal skills in their children.”

Peer influence is particularly strong in the adolescent years, as children reduce the amount of time spent with parents and increase the amount of unsupervised time spent with peers.

“This work highlights the importance of considering the networks that surround teens, not just thinking about individuals in isolation,” says co-author Emily Falk, Ph.D., associate professor at Penn’s Annenberg School for Communication and director of its Communication Neuroscience Lab.

“Behaviors spread from person to person, and keeping that in mind is essential for prevention and cure.”

“The burden of smoking-caused morbidity is heavy around the world,” Liu adds. “If social influence is a crucial factor in adolescents’ decisions to start smoking and keep smoking, we want to understand how to leverage its power for better smoking prevention. It’s always easier to stop people from starting to smoke than to change their behavior later in life.”

Source: University of Pennsylvania

from Psych Central News

Become a patron of The Carlisle Wellness Network. Show everyone that you think this service is worth at least a buck. Go to; and pledge one dollar per month and help improve the resources it takes to gather the articles you see here as well as create fresh content including interviews an podcasts. We only need one dollar per month from all of our patrons to give The Carlisle Wellness Network a bright furture in the health and wellness social media ecosystem.


Popular posts from this blog

Be a part of The Carlisle Wellness Network

Be a part of The Carlisle Wellness Network


It maybe started about four or five months ago, when I found a video online named “2 guys 1 hammer” or something like that. I watched it because of curiosity right? at first I cringed. I clicked off and never went back, two weeks later without thinking about it, it popped in my head during health. I went home and hopped on live leak and spent hours on it, for some reason I felt addicted to these videos, I’ve become very desensitized and I only care about few people, then, I started to like(and or love) the look of blood, I looked on tumblr and images of bloody noses or bloody mouths and knuckles, and then I started punching my walls and tried to hurt them just because it looked cool to me, it’s sort of worrying me as I am just 13, and I’m not sure if I wanna tell my parents since i’m in therapy and I already have low self esteem and fear of talking in front of people. I’m very anti-social and hate talking about these things so I decided to do it here. A. People sometimes engage in be…

Past Abuse

I am having a difficult time dealing with my past abusive relationship. My ex, who I was with for two years was emotionally and sexually abusive. I ended the relationship almost a year ago but am still having a hard time. I occasionally have flashbacks and get frightened or angry and cant stop thinking about what happened. I feel guilty for being so upset because there are other people whose experiences are so, so much worse than mine, but I am still having a hard time getting over it. I am now with a really amazing man who knows about what happened. He really tries to be supportive, but has a difficult time understanding. He gets angry because he doesn’t understand why I allowed someone to do that to me for so long. He thinks that I stayed for so long because I actually enjoyed being sexually abused, and although he doesn’t mean to, he makes me feel like he thinks I am disgusting. He also says that it feels dirty and wrong to instigate anything intimate with me, because unless I ini…