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Home > Anxious adults vs. cool children: children's views on smoking and addiction.

Rugkåsa, Jorun and Knox, Barbara and Sittlington, Julie and Kennedy, Orla and Treacy, Margaret P and Abaunza, Pilar Santos (2001) Anxious adults vs. cool children: children's views on smoking and addiction. Social Science & Medicine, 53, (5), pp. 593-602.

Tobacco addiction represents a major public health problem, and most addicted smokers take up the habit during adolescence. We need to know why. With the aim of gaining a better understanding of the meanings smoking and tobacco addiction hold for young people, 85 focused interviews were conducted with adolescent children from economically deprived areas of Northern Ireland.

Through adopting a qualitative approach within the community rather than the school context, the adolescent children were given the opportunity to freely express their views in confidence. Children seem to differentiate conceptually between child smoking and adult smoking. Whereas adults smoke to cope with life and are thus perceived by children as lacking control over their consumption, child smoking is motivated by attempts to achieve the status of cool and hard, and to gain group membership. Adults have personal reasons for smoking, while child smoking is profoundly social. Adults are perceived as dependent on nicotine, and addiction is at the core of the children's understanding of adult smoking. Child smoking, on the other hand, is seen as oriented around social relations so that addiction is less relevant. These ideas leave young people vulnerable to nicotine addiction. It is clearly important that health promotion efforts seek to understand and take into account the actions of children within the context of their own world-view to secure their health


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