Parents Wield Influence Over Teen Smoking

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The biggest deterrent to teen smoking and drinking may be a candid conversation between parents and their kids.

A study by marketing Associate Professor Zhiyong Yang concludes that early, substantive dialogue between parents and their grade-school children about the ills of tobacco and alcohol use can be more powerful in shaping teen behavior than advertising, marketing, or peer pressure.

First, our conclusion is that parenting styles can be changed, and that’s good news for the parents and the teens,” Dr. Yang says. “Second, our study shows that parental influence is not only profound in its magnitude but persistent and long-lasting over the course of a child’s entire life.”

Yang’s research was published in a recent edition of the Journal of Business Research. Similar findings were part of a 2010 study he published in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing of the American Marketing Association.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 3,900 Americans under age 18 begin smoking each day and about 1,000 youth will become daily cigarette smokers.

Yang says his findings run counter to common perceptions that parents have little influence on behavior after their children enter adolescence. Conventional wisdom suggests that peer pressure and targeted marketing and advertising are of paramount influence on teen decisions to use tobacco and alcohol or engage in other risky behaviors.

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