Despite the health hazards they learn about in school, the drive to be thin may be driving young girls to smoke. A study led by Johns Hopkins Medical School reviewed more than 2,300 girls and found that worry over weight was the main trigger for girls to smoke by the time they hit 18 or 19. Other risk factors included stress, poor grades in school, and growing up in a single parent household.
Researchers hope that if parents can identify the reason involved in a girl's decision to smoke, they can help her find healthier alternatives to coping with weight worries, stress and other issues that may lead them to light up. National surveys show that teenage smoking, especially among whites, is on the rise, with the biggest increase being among high school seniors.
More than 3,000 young persons start smoking each day, according to federal estimates. Current predictions are that, in the United States, more than five million of today's young smokers will go on to die of a tobacco-related illness. The study, which appears in the June issue of Preventive Medicine, was based on data from the NHLBI-sponsored growth and health study (NGHS). Lead investigator Dr. Carolyn Voorhees of the Johns Hopkins University Medical School.