Peer influence more likely to encourage smoking, say sociologists
The influence of friends seems stronger in prompting adolescents to start smoking than in urging them to quit.
According to the researchers – sociologists David Schaefer of Arizona State University and Steven Haas of Pennsylvania State University – peer pressure was shown to work both ways. It can lead friends into or out of a smoking habit. However, the greater influence is seen in youth introducing peers to smoking.
That may be due, at least partially, to the knowledge and resources available to adolescents. Learning how to smoke and where to buy cigarettes without being caught is information smoking friends can share with non-smoking peers. On the other hand, youth rarely have access to resources that enable someone to quit smoking, like nicotine replacement products or cessation programs.
Schaefer and Haas hope their research results will help shape health programs to take advantage of peer influence. In addition, they believe their work may be expanded to apply to other adolescent behaviors, like drug and alcohol use and delinquency.
Schaefer is also exploring the role of social networks in obesity and depression. He is an associate professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.