Adolescent Romantic Relationships and Change in Smoking Status

Published in: Addictive Behaviors, v. 36, no. 4, Apr. 2011, p. 320-326

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2009

by David P. Kennedy, Joan S. Tucker, Michael Pollard, Mhong-Hyun Go, Hank Green

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Although smoking rates have decreased, smoking among adolescents continues to be a problem. Previous research has shown the importance of peer influences on adolescent smoking behavior but has mostly neglected the impact of adolescent romantic relationships. This study examines the influence of romantic relationships with smokers and non-smokers on smoking initiation and cessation over a one-year period using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). For initial non-smokers, we examined whether the total length of time in romantic relationships with smokers and non-smokers at Wave I, as well as amount of exposure to smoking through romantic partners, predicted smoking initiation at Wave II. Among initial regular smokers, we examined whether these same relationship characteristics predicted smoking cessation at Wave II. These analyses were conducted separately for respondents in any type of romantic relationship, as well as just those respondents in close romantic relationships. Results indicated that, for close romantic relationships, cessation was more likely among smokers with more time in relationships with non-smoking partners. Greater exposure to smoking through romantic partners at Wave I significantly decreased the likelihood of cessation among initial smokers and increased the likelihood of initiation among initial non-smokers. For all relationships, greater exposure to smoking through romantic partners at Wave I significantly reduced the likelihood of cessation. These associations held when controlling for best friend smoking, as well as demographic factors and school-level smoking, suggesting that peer-based smoking programs aimed at adolescents should incorporate a focus on romantic relationships.

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