One in Four Louisiana Teens Smoke Cigarettes

May 17, 2005

Madeline Vann
Phone: 504-247-1425

One out of four high school students in south central Louisiana smoked cigarettes in the past month, say Tulane University researchers. Their research among high school students in six Acadian parishes revealed a high prevalence of smoking as well as the factors that affect teens' decisions to try smoking. Teens who reported that most or all of their friends smoked were most likely to be smokers as well, researchers say.

"This smoking rate is higher than the reported national smoking rate for ninth graders," says Carolyn Johnson, lead author and principal investigator of the study. "Being engaged and successful at school has a strong impact on whether teens smoke or not, as do family members and friends and their choices to smoke or not."

The researchers found that white teens were smoking at a significantly higher rate than African-American teens. According to Johnson, the researchers found that white females were just as likely to smoke as white males, although nationally more males than females report smoking.

Among white teens, smokers were likely to be those who had spending money, were not high academic performers and did not participate in school activities. African-Americans who smoked had spending money, were not high academic performers, were more likely to be male and were not planning to go to college.

The researchers also found that teens who smoked within the past month or week had parent(s) who smoke, sibling(s) who smoke and a majority of friends who smoke. They also were more likely to be around people who drank for "kicks." The researchers surveyed close to 5,000 ninth-grade public school students in these Louisiana parishes: Lafayette, Vermillion, St. Martin, Lafourche, St. Landry and New Iberia.

Self-reports of smoking were confirmed with saliva tests, approved by parents. The research was part of the Acadiana Coalition of Teens Against Tobacco, which also involves teens in prevention and cessation efforts in their schools as well as advocating for changes in laws related to tobacco use.

"We managed to develop a profile of teens who have chosen to smoke that can be helpful in planning education and prevention activities," says Johnson.

The study was published in a recent issue of Preventive Medicine. Johnson is a clinical associate professor at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Co-authors include Tulane faculty members Neil Boris, Leann Myers and Larry Webber.

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Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000