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Soc Sci Med. 2010 Sep;71(5):891-7. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.06.002. Epub 2010 Jun 16.

Westernization and tobacco use among young people in Delhi, India.

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Michael & Susan Dell Center for Advancement of Healthy Living, Austin, TX, United States.


Few studies have explored the relationship between acculturation and health in non-immigrant populations. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between "westernization" and tobacco use among adolescents living in Delhi, India. A bi-dimensional model of acculturation was adapted for use in this study to examine (a) whether young people's identification with Western culture in this setting is related to tobacco use, and (b) whether their maintenance of more traditional Indian ways of living is related to tobacco use. Multiple types of tobacco commonly used in India (e.g., cigarettes, bidis, chewing tobacco) were considered. Socioeconomic status (SES), gender, and grade level were examined as potential effect modifiers of the relationship between "westernization" and tobacco use. The study was cross-sectional by design and included 3512 students in eighth and tenth grades who were enrolled in 14 Private (higher SES) and Government (lower SES) schools in Delhi, India. A self-report survey was used to collect information on tobacco use and "westernization." The results suggest that young people's identification with Western influences may increase their risk for tobacco use, while their maintenance of traditional Indian ways of living confers some protection. Importantly, these effects were independent of one another. Boys benefitted more from protective effects than girls, and tenth graders gained more consistent benefits than eighth graders in this regard, too. Negative effects associated with identification with Western ways of living were, in contrast, consistent across gender and grade level. The positive and negative effects of acculturation on adolescent tobacco use held for all tobacco products considered here. Future interventions designed to curb youth tobacco use in India may benefit by paying closer attention to cultural preferences of these young consumers.

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