Parents can help their teenagers to never start smoking. A Swedish study published in the open access journal BMC Public Health has found that adolescents respond positively to their parents' attitudes towards smoking.
The research, carried out by a team led by Maria Nilsson of Umeå University, Sweden, utilized statistics obtained from three national surveys conducted by The National Board for Health and Welfare and The Swedish National Institute of Public Health in 1987, 1994 and 2003. The surveys explored the attitudes, beliefs and tobacco use of teenagers across Sweden. Responses were obtained from young people aged 13, 15 and 17 years old, with 1500 adolescents in each age group. A total of 13500 adolescents were surveyed. The aim of the study was to determine adolescent attitudes towards parental intervention on tobacco use in Sweden and to see if these have changed over time.
Teenagers are more positive today towards their parents' attempts to discourage them from smoking, regardless of whether or not they smoked, than in the past. The most effective actions parents could take include dissuading their children from smoking, not smoking themselves and not allowing their children to smoke at home. Younger children were more positive about these approaches than older children. Levels of smoking amongst participants were stable at 8% in 1987 and 1994, but halved in 2003. The decrease in the proportion of teenagers smoking is thought to result from a number of factors, including changes in legislation and the decreasing social acceptability of smoking.
Use of snus, a type of moist snuff, remained relatively constant. Fewer teenagers thought their parents would be concerned about snus use, probably reflecting a general perception that snus is less of a health hazard than smoking. Unsurprisingly, older children were more likely to smoke or use snus than younger children.
The authors of the study concluded that the prevalence of smoking in adolescents in Sweden has fallen and an increasing number of teenagers have never smoked. "The fact that adolescents respond positively to parental attitudes to smoking is encouraging," says Nilsson. "Parents should be encouraged to intervene with respect to their children's tobacco use." The findings are contrary to suggestions that children resent interventions by their parents to discourage them from smoking.
- Maria Nilsson, Lars Weinehall, Erik Bergström, Hans Stenlund and Urban Janlert. Adolescent's perceptions and expectations of parental action on children's smoking and snus use; national cross sectional data from three decades. BMC Public Health, (in press)
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