Impulsive youngsters most likely to smoke

Young people may be more likely to start smoking if they are impulsive and achieve poor grades, new research has suggested. Led by Jennifer O’Loughlin, a Professor at the University of Montreal School of Public Health, the study indicated those who regularly drink alcohol may also be at greater risk of cigarette use.

Published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, the report has called for young adults aged 18 to 24 to be targeted by smoking prevention campaigns. The investigation used data from a cohort study entitled Nicotine Dependence in Teens, which first got underway in 1999 and has included almost 1,300 12 to 13-year-olds.

It was found that people who started smoking at a later age showed greater levels of impulsiveness compared to other participants. Professor O’Loughlin noted that when parents are not around to exert control, individuals are more free to express their impulsiveness.

She stated: “Parents of impulsive children exercise tighter control when they are living with them at home to protect their children from adopting behaviours that can lead to smoking.”

Society member Professor Karen Pine from the University of Hertfordshire comments:

“Since impulse control is not fully developed in early teens this is often cited as a contributory factor in their cigarette use. This finding that young adults who took up smoking later were also high on impulsivity may in part be due to diminishing parental control, as the authors claim.

“However, causality cannot be inferred here since impulsivity may also give rise to greater alcohol use at this age, which is strongly associated with cigarette use.”


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