Ethnic Variation in Peer Influences on Adolescent Smoking

Document Type



Community and Global Health (CGU)

Publication Date



Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Multicultural Psychology | Public Health Education and Promotion | Race and Ethnicity | Substance Abuse and Addiction


Previous research has indicated that the influence of peers on adolescent smoking may differ across ethnic groups. Although many studies have focused on African Americans, Hispanics, and Whites, few studies have included Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and multi-ethnic adolescents as distinct groups. Using data from a statewide sample of 5870 eighth-grade adolescents in California, this study examined ethnic differences in the association between peer influence variables and smoking behavior and susceptibility. Informational peer influence (best friends' smoking behavior) and normative peer influence (prevalence estimates of peer smoking) were investigated. We hypothesized that informational peer influences would be stronger among Whites (whose families originate primarily from the individualistic cultures of the USA and Western Europe) than among Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, and African Americans (whose families originate primarily from collectivist cultures). Conversely, we hypothesized that normative peer influences would be stronger among ethnic minority adolescents from collectivist cultural backgrounds than among Whites. Consistent with previous studies, friends' smoking and prevalence estimates of peer smoking were risk factors for past 30-day smoking and susceptibility to smoking across ethnic groups. The influence of friends' smoking behavior was stronger among Whites than among several other groups: Pacific Islanders, African Americans, and Hispanic/Latinos. The influence of prevalence estimates of peer smoking was stronger among Whites than among multiethnic adolescents. Results indicate that cultural factors may play a role in peer influences on smoking initiation. Smoking prevention interventions for adolescents should address the differences in peer influences across ethnic groups.

Rights Information

© 2001 Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco