Why Do Teens Smoke? American Indian and Hispanic Adolescents’ Perspectives on Functional Values and Addiction

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Abstract

Tobacco use by the young is one of the greatest public health concerns in the United States and is targeted by a number of prevention and control programs. A fuller understanding of the social and cultural values that youths attach to smoking is important in achieving focused, effective prevention strategies. Drawing on data collected through individual and focus group interviews, this article examines reasons that Hispanic and American Indian youths give to explain their smoking. The analysis presented here focuses on two interrelated sets of reasons: the functional values of tobacco use (including mood management, peer influences, and image maintenance) and addiction. This article concludes with a discussion of the implications these data may have for prevention and cessation programs aimed at youth and outlines ideas for an anthropological research agenda on youth and tobacco.