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Teens Still Smoking To Be "Cool"

High schoolers will smoke if their friends do, and all the popular kids are doing it, study finds.

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Puffing for popularity. Photo via

By May Wilkerson

09/06/12

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Kids are still picking up smoking out of a desire to be "cool" and popular, a new study shows. Researchers asked 1,950 10th and 11th grade students at seven California high schools about their smoking patterns, and the habits of their immediate friends. They found that students who thought their close friends smoked were more likely to be smokers, too, and those who smoked tended to form friendships with other smokers. The study confirmed that smoking habits are still closely tied with popularity—and a drive to become more popular and accepted by your peers. "Popularity is a strong predictor of smoking," said study author Thomas Valente, a professor at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine. "We haven't done enough to make it cool not to smoke." Valente said that one way to reducing smoking's "cool" factor could be letting kids know that the tobacco industry is trying to manipulate them in to smoking, "since teenagers don't like to be manipulated." He adds that recruiting popular kids to talk about how smoking is not "cool" has also been an effective tactic. According to the American Lung Association, 68% of adult smokers started at age 18 or younger, and every day almost 3,900 children under 18 smoke their first cigarette. People who start smoking in adolescence are more likely to develop a severe addiction to nicotine than are those who start later.

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