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Parental effort vital in preventing teenage smoking

Parents can help their teenagers to abstain from tobacco. Researchers at Umeå University in Sweden have found that adolescents in the past 20 years have become more positive to their parents' attempts to discourage smoking.

The study is based on data from three national surveys made by the National Board of Health and Welfare in 1987, Swedish National Institute of Public Health in 1994, and Umeå University in 2003.

The questions focused on attitudes, beliefs and tobacco use among teenagers across Sweden. A total of 13,500 young people aged 13, 15 and 17 years were surveyed. The main finding is that teenagers today are more sympathetic to their parents' attempts to prevent them from smoking - whether young people smoke or not.

The most effective actions that parents can do in this context is to discourage smoking and to try to persuade young people to fail, not to smoke themselves, and not to allow their children to smoke at home.

Young teenagers were generally more positive about these types of intervention than older teenagers.

The proportion of smokers among the respondents was 8% in 1987 and 1994, but decreased to half in the 2003 survey. This decrease is attributed to several factors, including changes in legislation against tobacco use and the decreased social tolerance towards smoking.

The use of snus, a type of moist snuff, remained relatively constant in the three study sessions. Fewer teenagers believed their parents would be concerned about their snus use, probably reflecting a public perception that snus is less of a health risk than smoking.

Not surprisingly, it appeared that older adolescents were more like to smoke or use snus than younger children.

The head of the study, published in the open access journal BMC Public Health, is Maria Nilsson, doctoral student at the Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine.

Co-authors are Lars Weinehall, Erik Bergström, Hans Stenlund and Urban Janlert the same unit, Epidemiology and Public Health Sciences.

"The fact that adolescents respond positively to parental attitudes to smoking is encouraging," says Maria Nilsson. The findings are contrary to suggestions that adolescents resent interventions by their parents to discourage them from smoking.

For more information, contact:
Maria Nilsson, Department for Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umeå University; +46- 90 785 33 43;

Pressofficer Hans Fällman; +46-70 691 28 29;

M Nilsson, L Weinehall, E Bergström, H Stenlund, U Janlert: "Adolescent's perceptions and expectations of parental action on children's smoking and snuff use; national cross sectional data from three decades', BMC Public Health.

Hans Fällman | idw
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