Factors associated with smoking among children and adolescents in Connecticut

  • Patricia F Coogan
    Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics (Coogan, Geller), Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA
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  • Mary Adams
    Connecticut Department of Public Health (Adams), Hartford, Connecticut 06134, USA
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  • Alan C Geller
    Address correspondence to: Alan Geller, RN, The Cancer Prevention and Control Center, 720 Harrison Avenue, DOB-801A, Boston University Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, 02118
    Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics (Coogan, Geller), Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA

    Department of Dermatology (Geller, Miller, Lew), Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA
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  • Daniel Brooks
    Massachusetts Department of Public Health (Brooks, Koh), Boston, Massachusetts 02108, USA
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  • Donald R Miller
    Department of Dermatology (Geller, Miller, Lew), Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA

    Department of Health Services (Miller), Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA
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  • Robert A Lew
    Department of Dermatology (Geller, Miller, Lew), Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA

    Biometry Center, Multi-Purpose Arthritis Center, Brigham and Womens Hospital (Lew), Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA
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  • Howard K Koh
    Massachusetts Department of Public Health (Brooks, Koh), Boston, Massachusetts 02108, USA
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      Introduction: The age of smoking initiation has dropped over the past four decades. Since behaviors and attitudes adopted in late childhood or early adolescence predict future smoking, it is important to understand the smoking and other risk-taking behaviors and attitudes of children aged 12 and younger. The goal of the analyses presented here was to describe behavioral and attitudinal factors associated with smoking among elementary school (grades 4–6), middle school (grades 7–8), and high school (grades 9–12) students in Connecticut.
      Methods: We have used data from 8 years (1988–1996) of an anonymous, self-administered health risk appraisal survey given to children and adolescents in self-selected public and private schools. We compared the proportion of smokers and nonsmokers who reported various behaviors and attitudes and compared them with the chi-square test.
      Results: Fifteen percent (n = 4,884) of the total population (n = 31,861) were current smokers. At all grade levels, current smokers were more likely than nonsmokers to engage in risk-taking behaviors, and to report more stress and depression. Indicators of risk-taking and stress were also associated with the intent to smoke among children in grades 4–6.
      Conclusions: Smoking occurs within the context of other risk-taking behavior and psychological distress, among both children and older adolescents. Our data provide support for the idea of early identification and targeting of children at high risk of smoking in elementary school, possibly as early as grade four.


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