Despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent on tobacco prevention, smoking is apparently still considered cool among teens.
A recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that popular kids in high school are more likely to smoke cigarettes than their less prominent peers.
The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Southern California and the University of Texas, focused on Southern California teens at seven high schools. Nearly 2,000 students, predominately Latino, participated in the study.
Researchers found the probability of becoming a smoker in the 10th grade increased by 67 percent. Teens with friends who smoke were found to be more likely to adopt the trend.
Seventeen-year-old Moises Cordova, a student at Animo Oscar De La Hoya Charter High School in Boyle Heights, agreed with the findings.
“In general if (someone) has friends that smoke they’re most likely to smoke too,” he said. “They see other people doing it, and they’ll think that it’s alright to do it too.”
In the study, a student’s popularity was determined by the number of times the adolescent was listed as a friend by others surveyed. The study concluded that teens become smokers by having smoking friends, and smokers are more likely to make friends with other smokers.
Cordova said he doesn’t give into the peer pressure.
“I feel people should be confident in themselves and not rely on other people to tell them what to like or not to like,” he said.
Contrary to previous studies, the researchers said the perception of the number of teens who smoke was actually lower than the number of actual smokers. Respondents estimated 17 percent of their peers were smokers, while the self-reported smoking rate was 27 percent.
While smoking rates in the United States have significantly declined among adults, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2011 more Americans died from complications related to smoking than from HIV/AIDs, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides and murders combined.
The CDC also found that more than 80 percent of adult smokers begin smoking before the age of 18. The American Lung Association reports that nearly 4,000 children will try a cigarette daily, and one-quarter of those children are likely to become regular smokers.