A new study conducted by Temple researchers is recommending that health teachers should combat unhealthy trends by addressing both smoking and binge drinking as one health risk since they occur together.
"These are important findings because they emphasize the need for education and intervention programs that target the co-occurrence of these two health risks," said Brian Daly, assistant professor of public health in the College of Health Professions and Social Work.
The researchers determined rates of smoking and binge drinking through the collection of anonymous survey data from 2,450 African-American, Hispanic and Caucasian students in grades 9-12 at Philadelphia public high schools.
They compiled the students' responses from the 2007 Philadelphia Youth Behavioral Risk Survey (YRBS).
In their study report, they have revealed that the students were asked how many cigarettes they'd had per day over 30 days, and how many days over a 30 day period they'd had 5 or more drinks in a row. Data was broken down by race/ethnicity and gender.
It was found that while Caucasian adolescents were more likely than African-Americans to engage in either binge drinking or smoking, both groups were equally likely to engage in both at the same time.
"In the past 30 years or so, African Americans have traditionally had the lowest instance of smoking and binge drinking. Those low numbers resulted in very few studies which looked at both smoking and binge drinking in a diverse sample; most focused only on instances of these in Caucasian or Hispanic adolescents," said Daly, who presented his research at the American Psychological Association's annual meeting this week.
According to Daly, the equal instances of smoking and binge drinking among both groups highlights the need for a multi-pronged approach to education and intervention.
"We can't just focus on educating adolescents about the dangers of just smoking or drinking. We need to address both as one health risk, and we need to do that for all adolescents, not just one particular group," he said.
He further said that while talking about the dangers of smoking, health education teachers should also touch on the dangers of binge drinking, illustrating the connection.
The next phase of Daly's research will break down these rates by grade level to determine exactly when binge drinking and smoking start.
"The difference in the mindset of a ninth grader versus a 12th grader is pretty vast. And if we can determine when kids start this behaviour - whether it's the summer after 8th grade, or when they're a sophomore or a senior - it can help us tailor education and treatment plans even more," he said.