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Ethn Health. 1999 Nov;4(4):245-57.

Taking a first puff: cigarette smoking experiences among ethnically diverse adolescents.

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Department of Population and Family Health Sciences, Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland 21205-1901, USA.



To study the social contexts and physiological consequences of an initial cigarette smoking experience among adolescents from four ethnic groups (African American, European American, Hispanic, Native American) who vary by gender and locale (e.g. urban vs rural).


A qualitative study using individual interviews and focus groups.


Results both amplify and reinforce conclusions about peer and family influences on adolescent smoking initiation reported in quantitative studies of teen smoking. Within the broader themes of peers and family, several important sub-themes emerged. The study findings suggest that peer influence can be characterized as social conformity or social acceptance. Males were more likely than females to describe experiences involving peers exerting strong messages to conform to smoking behaviors. Roles played by family members in the initiation process were complex and included those of initiator, prompter, accomplice, and inadvertent source of cigarettes. European American and Hispanic girls provided descriptions of parents/family members as instigators of their first smoking experience. Hispanic adolescents descripted instances in which family members prompted cigarette use at a young age by encouraging the young person to light the adult's cigarette. Finally, ethnic differences in the physiological responses to initial smoking suggest the need to further explore the role of brand preference and variations in inhaling among ethnically diverse adolescents.


In order to design effective cigarette smoking prevention programs for adolescents, it is important to understand the meaning of smoking behaviors for adolescents from different ethnic and social backgrounds.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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