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Peer Pressure to Quit Smoking is Weaker, Study Finds

Update Date: Jun 11, 2014 03:55 PM EDT

Peer pressure plays a huge role for young children, teenagers and young adults. Several studies have found that friends and peers can greatly influence each other to start smoking and drinking alcohol. In a new study, sociologists set out to see if peer pressure could be used to get kids to quit smoking. The team found that in this situation, the effects of peer pressure were significantly weaker.

"What we found is that social influence matters, it leads nonsmoking friends into smoking and nonsmoking friends can turn smoking friends into nonsmokers," said Steven Haas, associate professor of sociology and demography, Penn State. "However, the impact is asymmetrical: the tendency for adolescents to follow their friends into smoking is stronger."

For this study, Haas worked with David Schaefer, associate professor of human evolution and social change, Arizona State University and analyzed data taken from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Information was collected from two high schools with sample sizes of 757 and 1,673. Throughout the school year, the researchers recorded behavioral changes.

The researchers found that peer pressure to start smoking was significantly stronger than peer pressure to quit. The team reasoned that the difference in the effects of peer pressure could be due to the fact that starting the habit is a lot easier than quitting it. Haas added that creating programs to teach children how to help others quit could be effective.

"In order to become a smoker, kids need to know how to smoke, they need to know where to buy cigarettes and how to smoke without being caught, which are all things they can learn from their friends who smoke," said Haas according to Medical Xpress. "But, friends are unlikely to be able to provide the type resources needed to help them quit smoking. Most often, adolescents will try to either quit cold turkey, or by gradually reducing their smoking, and these are the least successful ways to quit."

The study was published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

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