Exposure to second-hand smoke can make non-smoking preteens become dependent on nicotine, a new study has found.
The study from Concordia University and the University of Montreal also found that tweens who repeatedly observe a parent, sibling, friend or neighbour consuming cigarettes are more likely to light up themselves as adolescents.
"Kids who see others smoking are more likely to take up the habit because they don't perceive cigarettes as unhealthy," lead study author Simon Racicot, a PhD candidate in the Concordia University Department of Psychology and a member of its Pediatric Public Health Psychology Lab, said.
"We found that kids who'd never smoked who were exposed to tobacco use were more likely to hold positive beliefs about the killer habit. These are the kids who are more likely to start smoking as teenagers," he said.
This new investigation builds on previous long-term studies examining the negative effects of being surrounded by smokers.
"To our knowledge, this is one of first studies to show how increased exposure to second-hand smoke leads to youth who've never smoked to report having symptoms of nicotine dependence, such as craving cigarettes and finding it hard to go without smoking," Racicot said.
As part of the study, 327 sixth or seventh graders enrolled in French-language public schools were questioned about their smoking habits, the number of smokers in their entourage and the situations where they observed smoking.
"Preteens who were surrounded by more smokers believed that there are greater advantages to smoking. Therefore, smoking by parents, siblings, and friends increases risk factors for later smoking," Racicot explained.
The findings have been published in the Oxford journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.