Date of Award

12-4-2008

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Department

Public Health

First Advisor

Michael Eriksen, Sc.D. - Chair

Second Advisor

Frances McCarty, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Russ Toal, MPH

Abstract

Tobacco use is responsible for millions of preventable illnesses and deaths throughout the world. Nevertheless, multitudes of people begin smoking every day, most before reaching the age of 18. Previous research suggests that parental smoking status is a significant predictor of adolescent smoking. Furthermore, parental smoking status may also be associated with a younger age of smoking initiation, which increases a person’s risk of nicotine dependence, cancer, and death. This study examines the association between parental smoking and adolescent age of smoking initiation in 14 African countries. Data for this study was obtained from the Global Youth Tobacco Survey from 2003 – present. Parental smoking status was significantly associated with a younger age of adolescent smoking initiation; maternal smoking had a greater influence than paternal smoking. Gender was also significantly associated with age of initiation; girls are smoking at a younger age than boys. In addition, parental smoking was significantly associated with current smoking among adolescents. The tobacco industry is increasingly targeting these countries to market products to women and adolescents, among whom smoking prevalence is currently low. More rigorous examinations of the association between parent and adolescent smoking in developing countries are needed. Immediate and compelling interventions in the areas of education for parents and adolescents on the health consequences of smoking, access to cessation benefits, and policies to reduce the visibility of smoking are critical steps to preventing tobacco-related death and disease.

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