How Normal Is Smoking? Teens Don’t Know, But Their Guesses Affect Their Habits

More reason to be careful about how we present drug information to adolescents. It’s possible to give kids the mistaken impression that drug use is much more common that it really is. This article highlights the dangers of this:

According to the study, nine out of 10 (93 percent) high school students overestimate the percentage of people who smoke in the United States. On average, they believe over half (56 percent) of Americans are smokers, while the actual figure is less than half that.

The study identifies three distinct ways to measure “normative beliefs” involving smoking, each of which it found to be significantly related to adolescents’ likelihoodof smoking. According to the study:

  • The more an adolescent perceived that successful and elite people smoke cigarettes, the more likely that adolescent was to smoke.
  • The more strongly an adolescent perceived that his or her parents or peers disapproved of smoking, the less likely that adolescent was to smoke.
  • The more an adolescent overestimated the percentage of smokers in the general population, the more likely that adolescent was to smoke.

[Hat tip: Join Together]