Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Health Education

A Survey of Greek Elementary School Students' Smoking Habits and Attitudes

Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Health Education

A Survey of Greek Elementary School Students' Smoking Habits and Attitudes

Article excerpt

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate the smoking habits of Greek elementary school students, their attitudes towards smoking, and their perceptions of the health consequences of tobacco use. Data were obtained from 1,092 elementary school students who completed a 24-item questionnaire designed for this study. Results indicated more older students smoked than younger ones and boys significantly outnumbering girls. Most of the students believed that people smoke for pleasure and relaxation or due to psychological problems and that people do not smoke primarily because of health or aesthetic reasons (smelling badly). Students' attitudes towards smoking were significantly related to their parents' educational status or the students' smoking behavior. Furthermore, students' negative attitude towards smoking was strongly associated with their age. Finally, it was found that age and parental educational status affected students' knowledge of the health effects of tobacco use.

Key words: Smoking, Children, Family, Health

Introduction

Cigarette smoking is the largest single cause of preventable death in the Western world. (1) The negative effects of smoking on human health are well established by research worldwide. Evidence also indicates that people who choose to smoke in their lifetime start smoking before the age of 18. (2) Furthermore, experimentation with tobacco usually begins at an early age. (3) Therefore, children's and adolescents' cigarette smoking is a very serious issue and a major public health problem.

The prevalence of tobacco use among European adolescents is estimated at around 30%. (4) Greece has the highest percentage of smoking among European adults and the third highest percentage in the world. (5) Furthermore, 41% of Greek 15-24 year olds and 18.6% of Greek 11-13 year olds smoke. (7, 8) According to a survey conducted by the US Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), these high rates of tobacco use in Greece will result in many tobacco-related deaths in the coming decades. (6)

Smoking at an early age is related to various factors including parental socioeconomic status, (9, 10) parental attitude towards tobacco use, (11-14) smoking behavior of parents or friends (15-17) or the students' school environment. (18) Furthermore, research has shown that children's and adolescents' attitudes towards tobacco use is a reliable predictor of their future smoking behavior. (1, 19) Wang and others (20) found that 9 and 10 year-olds' concepts of smoking addiction may influence their attitudes towards trying to smoke. More specifically, those who thought addiction happened immediately were committed to never smoking, whereas those who thought addiction happened after several cigarettes, expressed intentions to experiment with cigarettes.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to investigate the smoking behavior of elementary school students from Central Greece, their attitudes towards smoking, and their knowledge about the consequences of tobacco use and health. These data could assist us plan and implement smoking intervention programs for elementary school students to prevent the habit of tobacco use in pre-adolescence period.

Methods

Sample

A 24total of 1,092 elementary school students from Central Greece participated in the study (514 boys and 578 girls). Of the 1,092 participants, 480 students (239 boys and 241 girls) were between 9 and 10 years old (M= 9.5, SD= 0.94) and attended fourth grade. Another 612 students (275 boys and 337 girls) between 11 and 13 years old (M= 11.65, SD= 1.71) attended sixth grade. Table 1 shows the demographic characteristics of the students. Majority of participants (70.52%) lived in an urban area. With regard to their parents' educational status, 34.98% of the participants' fathers and 35.89% of their mothers were University or high technological school graduates, followed by those who were upper high school graduates (31. …

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