Young smokers less likely to have academic ambitions

Tes Editorial

FOURTH-YEAR pupils who think they are doing well and considering a college or university place are far less likely to be smokers and their parents likely to be better off.

Students who dislike school, report problems and have no intention of going into post-school education are three times as likely to be daily smokers and come from disadvantaged families. Fifteen-year-olds who smoke most are likely to have an unemployed parent.

The latest research for the Health Behaviours of Scottish Schoolchildren project, led by Dr Candace Currie of Edinburgh University, confirms the social and academic divide between smokers and non-smokers.

One in 10 university-bound young people are daily smokers at 15, compared with almost one in three who are not planning a post-school academic career. Parents' social class is still the key factor in young people's academic ambitions and whether they smoke.

Smokers are far more likely to have low aspirations and admit to being negative about school. They ae also more likely to have skipped classes for four days or more in a term.

Dr Currie's report, Control of Adolescent Smoking, based on a survey of 84 fourth-year classes in 1998, shows that Scotland has one of the highest teenage smoking rates in Europe after it shot up in the past 10 years. Almost one in four teenage girls (24 per cent) smoke - double the previous level - while the boys' figure is just under one in five (19.2 per cent).

Most are established smokers by the age of 15 and parents' views about smoking are influential. Young people are far more likely to be smokers if their parents are.

Poor diets tend to accompany teenage smoking. Nearly one in three daily smokers say they never touch cooked vegetables compared with one in five of non-smokers.

"The Health Behaviours of Scottish Schoolchildren, report 7, Control of Adolescent Smoking in Scotland" is available from the Child and Adolescent Health Research Unit at Edinburgh University (Joanna.Todd@

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