TEENS AND SMOKING

Teens in part-time jobs start smoking early

2 October, 2007

High-school students who do part-time jobs for pocket money may be more likely to start smoking than teens who do not join the after-school/weekend
workforce.

The study of Grade 10 and 11 students in Baltimore, Maryland, the United States, shows that those who took jobs in retail outlets and fast-food or other restaurants had a greater inclination to start smoking and that the trend was strongest among teens who worked the most hours per week.

Rajeev Ramchand, a psychiatric epidemiologist and lead author of the study, said that, of those who did not smoke at Grade 10, kids who began
working were at least three times more likely to start smoking than kids who did not start working.

It was found that those children who worked more than 10 hours a week on an average had an earlier age of initiation – that is, they started to smoke ahead of their peers.

Rajeev Ramchand conducted the study with colleagues while he was a graduate student at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. He now works for the Rand Corporation.

The researchers speculate a number of reasons for the change in the smoking status. For one, teens may be exposed on the job to older youth or to adults who are more likely to smoke and where smoking is more common and acceptable.

Another reason may be that the teens on work have the money to buy cigarettes, which they may not have had before.

Besides, taking a part-time job also changes a teen’s relationship with family members – a factor that can strongly affect behavior.

Rajeev Ramchand explains, “When kids start working, we know from previous research, that their bonds with their parents tend to weaken. So whereas in the past some have proposed that your bonds to your parents actually prevent you from drug-using behaviors like tobacco smoking, when you work, a parent kind of releases those bonds and ... that freedom may increase the likelihood to smoke.”

The work itself may also contribute to the decision to pick up the habit. Part-time jobs, often repetitive and monotonous, may compel a teen to take a smoke break as a means of escaping boredom.

Yet another factor could be stress, according to Ramchand. “Kids don’t report that their jobs themselves are very stressful, but what they will report is that managing their time and their responsibilities – getting all their homework done, sports if that’s part of their lives, as well as their work responsibilities. The combination of those things creates stress. And, they may turn to cigarettes as a kind of self-medication to relieve that stress.”

The research, published on September 28, 2007, in the American Journal of Public Health, is a part of a larger ongoing study of almost 800 children in Baltimore who were enrolled in Grade 1.
 

 

 
         
 

 

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