Similarities and Differences between Smoking and Non-Smoking Ten-Year-Old Children in Primary Schools

Article excerpt

SUMMARY

Background: For the majority of smokers, smoking is related to other forms of risk behaviour, especially poorer eating habits. The primary preventive educational programme "No smoking is a norm" focuses on children of younger school age (under 10 yrs), enables comparison and statistical evaluation of whether there are any differences (and which) between ten-year-olds with various smoking experiences, with special attention paid to their exposure to the influence of smokers, and their eating habits.

Methods: Analysis of data gained from a questionnaire compared groups of boys and girls, smokers and non-smokers, and children from families with no smokers, occasional smokers, and frequent smokers. Statistical significance of the differences was tested in the EPI INFO programme by means of the χ^sup 2^ test.

Results: From 1,082 children, almost one quarter (22.9%) have already tried smoking, boys more frequently (25%) than girls (19%) (p<0.05); and almost 7% smoked repeatedly. The household is the most frequently stated environment for accessing cigarettes in children: 51% of children are given cigarettes by their parents, siblings, grandparents or other relatives, another almost 17% take cigarettes themselves from unprotected stock. From 246 children who have smoked, more than one third were offered cigarettes by their friends, and some (4%) even bought them. Children with smoking experience more often come from smokers' families and more often have smoking siblings and friends who offer them cigarettes. Children claimed to have consumed alcoholic drinks over the past month, repeatedly smoking more often than those with one attempt (aprox. 81% vs 58%) and never smokers (32%). Smokers also more frequently ate salty snacks such as crisps, sausages, and fast foods. The circumstance of whether there are smokers in the child's household or not significantly influenced children's opinions on the smoking of men/boys and women/girls (fewer critics and more admirers in smokers' families), selection of friends, availability of cigarettes, and smoking behaviour of the children.

Conclusion: The examination of a cohort of ten-year-olds in a semi-longitudinal study confirmed the growing trend of experimenting with smoking. Strong relations to smoking behaviour in families were identified-such that influence a more tolerant approach to parents' smoking, selection of smoking or non-smoking friends, more frequent consumption of alcohol and salty snacks.

Key words: ten-years aged children, smokers/no-smokers, differences

INTRODUCTION

The generally accepted notion is that smoking, for most smokers, is also related to other risk behaviors - especially poorer eating habits. Smokers tend to consume more alcoholic drinks, coffee and meat, and a lesser quantity of fruit, vegetable, milk, and dairy products. Out of the frequent studies that have described differences in adults' eating habits, the recent work of Ma et al. (1) can be mentioned, and similar differences were demonstrated in adolescents e.g. by Wilson et al. (2, 3) or Flouris (4). In our work we have shown such trends in high-school students (5) as well as adults (6).

The educational primary preventive programme "No smoking is a norm" focuses on children of younger school age and besides anti-smoking intervention it also supports education in terms of better eating habits and nutritional recommendations, increasing physical activities and friend interpersonal relationships between children. In terms of nutrition, the children are informed about optimal ratios of eating individual foods according to the "food pyramid" and attention is paid mainly to increased consumption of fruit and vegetables (with the use of the "5 a day" programme and the fairy story of Knight Vitamin C and his helpers), as well as milk and dairy products (using the "Elixir M" programme), Through various "homework" tasks children are motivated to bring their school knowledge of nutritional recommendations into their homes; this expansion is also supported by informative letters and checklist questionnaires aimed at finding out the effect of the programme. …