Young Smokers Light More Cigarettes While Seeing Someone Else SmokeYoung people, aged 16 to 24, who smoke daily light up more cigarettes in the company of a smoking peer.

Unfortunately, anti-smoking campaigns neglect this effect, says NWO-funded researcher Zeena Harakeh.

Harakeh, a social scientist from Utrecht University, sought to determine what persuades young smokers to light up a cigarette. Her research showed that this group ultimately smokes more cigarettes when they see other young smokers.

“I call this implicit, passive influencing, as it happens without the other person actively offering a cigarette,” explains Harakeh.

Interestingly, young smokers who communicate with a peer online and see this person smoking will smoke more themselves.  “So the effect is there even when they do not smell the cigarette scent of the other,” says Harakeh.

Harakeh notes that in anti-smoking campaigns young people are mostly warned about the explicit, active influence.  However, her research reveals that actively offering young smokers a cigarette had less effect than was previously thought.

“It would seem that young people find it easier resist the temptation of a peer offering a cigarette than a peer who is smoking,” says Harakeh.   “Prevention programs completely ignore the passive, implicit influence. More attention should be paid to that.”

Harakeh suggests that young smokers no longer be shown in anti-smoking campaigns. “Merely the image of a young smoker might well cause another young person to light up a cigarette,” she says.

The research is published online in the scientific journals Nicotine and Tobacco Research and Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Source:  The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research