Date of Award

Winter 12-5-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

Sheryl M Strasser

Second Advisor

Sarah Boos

Third Advisor

Megan Smith


As in years past, use of tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death in this country. Smoking has been associated with elevated risks of 15 other forms of and has also been identified as a major cause of such chronic conditions as cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, bronchitis and emphysema. In 2008, an estimated 8.6 million Americans suffered from smoking-related chronic conditions (American Cancer Society, 2010).

As 80% of tobacco use begins in adolescence (Villanti, Boulay & Juon, 2010), this age group has long been the focus of intervention efforts. Furthermore, animal studies suggest that the adolescent brain is at increased risk for developing an addiction to nicotine compared to an adult brain (Morrell, Song & Halpern-Felsher, 2011). Additional studies have demonstrated that the younger an adolescent begins smoking, the more likely he is to become a regular smoker and less likely to quit smoking (Brown et al., 2010). The public health opportunity for primary and secondary prevention intervention is clear.

To track adolescent risk-taking in the state, The Georgia Department of Education administers the Georgia Student Health Survey II [GSHS II] throughout all school districts. The purpose of this thesis study was to examine known smoking risk factors using the GSHS data in order to assess associations using an adolescent sample. Findings demonstrated that age, gender, and urbanicity were associated with smoking. Findings from this study provide insights for programming that can be tailored to meet the needs of adolescent subgroups that may be vulnerable to smoking initiation.

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