Title

Do Popular Students Smoke? The Association Between Popularity and Smoking Among Middle School Students

Document Type

Article

Department

Community and Global Health (CGU)

Publication Date

10-2005

Disciplines

Health Psychology | Mental and Social Health | School Psychology | Substance Abuse and Addiction

Abstract

Background

Several studies have shown an association between popularity and behavior, indicating that popular people tend to reflect the norms of their group. Among adolescents, it has been hypothesized that popular students are more likely to smoke, especially in schools with high smoking prevalence.

Methods

Data were collected on friendship patterns and smoking from 1,486 sixth and seventh graders in 16 middle schools in southern California. Susceptibility to smoke was measured as not stating a commitment not to smoke in the future, and smoking as ever taken a puff or smoked a whole cigarette. We measured popularity as the number of times a student was chosen as a friend. Multivariate logistic regression was used to correlate popularity with susceptibility to smoke and smoking at follow-up controlling for baseline outcomes, demographic characteristics, and clustering within schools.

Results

Popularity was associated with increased susceptibility to smoke (Adjusted Odds Ratio [AOR] = 5.64, p < .001) and smoking (AOR = 5.09, p < .05) over the 1-year interval between surveys. Although the association was strongest for non-White boys, we did not find evidence of interactions between popularity and gender or ethnicity.

Conclusions

Popular middle school students were more likely to become smokers compared to their less popular peers. Although there seems some difference in the association by gender and ethnicity, the evidence does not suggest subgroup effects in this population. Implications for the study of adolescent smoking and prevention programming are discussed.

Rights Information

© 2005 Society for Adolescent Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc.