The Effect of Working for Pay on Adolescent Tobacco Use

Published in: American Journal of Public Health, v. 97, No. 11, Nov. 1, 2007, p. 2056-2062

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2006

by Rajeev Ramchand, Nicholas S. Ialongo, Howard D. Chilcoat

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OBJECTIVES: The authors investigated the links between working for pay and adolescent tobacco use to determine whether working for pay increases smoking risk. METHODS: The authors performed retrospective and prospective analyses using data from a cohort of 799 predominantly African American students in Baltimore, Md, who had been followed since the first grade. RESULTS: At the 10th year of follow-up, when the adolescents were aged 14 to 18 years, there was a positive relationship between the time they spent working for pay and current tobacco use. This relationship was attenuated somewhat after adjustment for potential selection effects. Adolescents who spent more than 10 hours per week working for pay also tended to initiate tobacco use earlier than did their peers. Among adolescents who had not yet used tobacco, those who started to work 1 year after assessment and those who worked over 2 consecutive assessments had an elevated risk of initiating use relative to adolescents who did not start working. CONCLUSIONS: There is a strong link between working for pay and adolescent tobacco use. Policymakers should monitor the conditions under which young people work to help minimize young workers' tobacco use and potential for initiating use.

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