School Popularity Predicts Likelihood of Smoking, Says Study

By Emily Murray

Were your high school days spent running with the less-than-popular crowd? A new study has found that means you are less likely to be a smoker as an adult than the “cool kids.”

We all understand the basic concept of peer pressure. We are more inclined naturally to try something we wouldn’t otherwise if a group of our peers are also doing it. This seems to be the underlying reason that more and more “popular” kids turn out to be smokers.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of Texas who surveyed 1,950 junior and senior high school students. The group of students was spread throughout 7 deifferent high schools in Southern California.

In order to determine something as hard to pinpoint as popularity and it’s link to smoking, researchers asked several questions including the basics – “do you smoke cigarettes?”, “how often do you smoke?”, “how many students do you think smoke?” “Do your close friends smoke?” and “who are your 5 closest friends.”

What the researchers discovered is that those who had close friends who smoked and those who were named the most often as one of the 5 closest friends were more likely to smoke. It seems that there is still an image of it being “cool” to smoke in many of the nation’s schools.

Most smokers start in these vulnerable teenage years. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about 80% of adult smokers began the habit before they were 18-years-old. In this group of students who participated in the research, 25.6% of the 9th graders self-reported their smoking habits and in the 10th grade group 28.1% said that they smoked.