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Peer Influence, Stages of Smoking Initiation, and Level of Experience

Jennifer L. Malson, B.A., Janine C. Delahanty, M.A., Amanda L. Gmyrek, M.A., Steve Pitts, Ph.D., Carlo C. DiClemente, Ph.D., University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Robert Fiedler, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

 Jennifer L. Malson, B.A.
Department of Psychology
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
1000 Hilltop Circle
Baltimore, Maryland 21250

Cigarette smoking is commonly measured in terms of prevalence rates, defined by level of experience with cigarettes.  Prevalence rates do not include smoking-related attitudes and intentions, thus the Transtheoretical Model’s stages of smoking initiation may be a more sensitive assessment of smoking initiation among adolescents.  Secondary data analyses of the Maryland Youth Tobacco Survey (MYTS, 2000) were conducted to compare smoking prevalence (i.e., level of experience) and stages of smoking initiation on peer influence variables.  Participants were public school students, between the ages of 12 and 18 years (N=47,113) and the majority of the sample was Caucasian (69%).  Students were classified according to five stages of smoking initiation and by level of experience: Inexperienced (i.e., no cigarette smoking in entire life), Exposed (i.e., smoked less than six cigarettes in entire life), and Experienced (i.e., smoked six or more cigarettes in entire life).  There were significant differences and similar stepwise patterns for both classifications on peer influence variables (p’s <.001).  However, odds-ratios and analyses of variance indicated considerably greater sensitivity and discriminability using stages of smoking initiation versus level of experience.  Based on these results, the stages of smoking initiation represent a more sensitive measure than prevalence of cigarette smoking for understanding the role of peer influence on adolescent smoking initiation.   

This study was supported by a subcontract from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.