Popular school kids ‘likelier to be smokers’

Washington, September 8 (ANI): The most popular kids in school are also more likely to be smokers, a new study has revealed.

“Popularity is a strong predictor of smoking. We haven’t done enough to make it cool not to smoke,” CBS News quoted study author Thomas Valente, professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, as telling HealthDay.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 80 percent of adult smokers began to smoke before the age of 18.

About 19.5 percent of high school students had smoked at least one cigarette and about 8.9 percent used smokeless tobacco in the previous month before they had been surveyed in 2009.

For the study, researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) and University of Texas had surveyed 1,950 high school students in the 9th and 10th grades in seven Southern California schools. The majority of the student body were either Hispanic or Latino.

The teenagers were asked if they smoked cigarettes, how often they smoked, how many students their age they thought smoked, how their close friends felt about smoking and who were their five closest friends at school.

The students named the most as buddies who were deemed the most popular pupils. Researchers also found that the popular kids were more likely to start smoking earlier than those who were less popular. Students who became smokers were more likely to be friends with other smokers, and those who thought their friends were smoking were more likely to smoke, even if that assumption was wrong.

However, the number of kids students thought were smoking was less likely to influence their decision to smoke compared to if their close pals had been smoking.

Researchers also pointed out that three other studies – one that looked at kids at a Mexican high school, one that involved sixth and seventh graders across Southern California and another that had surveyed high school students across the US – came up with similar results.

“Adolescence is a time when students turn to others to figure out what is important. These are four different samples, now, coming from different places-and the finding is consistent,” Valente said in a statement.

The study has been published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. (ANI)

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