Professor Thomas W. Valente of Keck School of Medicine of University of Southern California, the lead author of this and three previous similar studies, said despite marginal declines in smoking among high-school students the link between smoking and popularity remains.
In the latest study, Valente and colleagues at the University of Texas asked 1,950 students in the ninth and 10th grades in October 2006 and 2007 whether they had ever tried smoking, how frequently they had smoked in the past 30 days, how many students their age they thought smoked cigarettes, how they perceived their close friends felt about smoking and who their five best friends were at school.
Popularity was measured by the frequency that other respondents named a student as a friend, Valente said.
The study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, found those who believed their close friends smoked were more likely to also smoke, even if their perception was incorrect.
In addition, popular students became smokers earlier than the less popular and students who became smokers between grades 9 and 10 were more likely to form friendships with other smokers, the study said.
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