NEW RESEARCH ?
Most of us have known this fact for years. That's why parents don't want their kids to associate with kids who smoke. They are a bad influence. Afterall, most kids desperately want to be just like their peers. Being different is awful for them.
Yet, Zeena Harakeh, a social scientist from Utrecht University, Netherlands, recently researched the subject of what encourages young smokers to light a cigarette. Surprisingly, she came up with an unexpected finding.
WANNA CIGARETTE OR WATCH ME ?
Dr. Harakeh investigated what encourages smokers aged 16 to 24 to light up. You would think, intuitively, that young people would smoke more when they are offered a cigarette. But, you'd be wrong. They actually smoke more when in company of a smoking peer, even when no one offers them a cigarette.
"I call this implicit, passive influencing, as it happens without the other person actively offering a cigarette," explains Harakeh. Additionally, young people who communicate with a peer online and see this person smoking will smoke more themselves. "So, the effect is there even when they do not smell the cigarette scent of the other," she said. "It would seem that young people find it easier to resist the temptation of a peer offering a cigarette than a peer who is smoking."
PASSIVE, IMPLICIT INFLUENCE
Why is this finding important to know? Because in anti-smoking campaigns young people are mostly warned about the explicit, active influence. "Prevention programs completely ignore the passive, implicit influence," said the researcher. "More attention should be paid to that."
CIGARETTE ADVERTISERS AIM AT YOUNG
America's tobacco manufacturers have used adolescents and college students in their advertising successfully for decades -- selling a whole a lot of cigarettes to our young. But, now that there is research to back them up, perhaps those trying to save the health and lives of young people by getting them to not smoke or stop will use findings from the Dutch and become more successful with their message.
Results of the research have been published online in the scientific journals Nicotine and Tobacco Research and Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
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by Sharon McEachern