Teens Show Sex-Linked Pull to Cigarettes

Article excerpt

Over the past few years, U.S. teenagers have reported rising rates of both occasional and regular cigarette smoking. Preliminary results now suggest that different traits predispose young men and young women to take up cigarettes.

During high school, boys who start smoking often have cigarette-smoking friends and, to a modest extent, report symptoms of depression, according to a study directed by Joel D. Killen of Stanford University School of Medicine. Girls who begin to smoke also have friends who use cigarettes, but in many cases these girls ardently pursue social contacts and close relationships, at least in a sample consisting mostly of white, Asian, and Hispanic teens.

"The current importance that smoking-prevention programs place on self-esteem building and social skills training may be off the mark for the girls most at risk for smoking," Killen and his coworkers contend. "Our data suggest that such girls may already be more gregarious and socially adept than are their peers."

Few studies have examined sex differences in temperamental and social influences on teenagers' use of various substances, including cigarettes, the researchers note.

If the new findings are confirmed, they would support an earlier theory that many boys smoke cigarettes in part to cope with social anxieties, whereas girls who thrive on social interaction and belonging to peer groups prove most willing to adopt group-condoned behaviors, such as cigarette use.

Killen and his colleagues studied a total of 1,901 boys and girls entering one of three Northern California high schools. …