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Young Adult Smoking Risk Factors: Impulsivity, Regular Alcohol Use, Poor Grades

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A new study finds three risk factors for smoking among young adults are being impulsive, using alcohol regularly and receiving low grades in school.

The study included 1,293 teens, who were followed from ages 12 to 24. By age 22, three-quarters of the teens had tried smoking. The researchers from the University of Montreal found 44 percent started before they entered high school, 43 percent started during high school and 14 percent started some time in the six years after high school.

Impulsivity, regular alcohol use and poor grades were associated with starting to smoke in the six years after high school, The Huffington Post reports. The findings appear in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Study researcher Jennifer O’Loughlin said one possible reason impulsive teens start smoking after high school is that their parents are no longer able to exert control. “We can postulate that parents of impulsive children exercise tighter control when they are living with them at home to protect their children from adopting behaviors that can lead to smoking, and this protection may diminish over time,” she said in a news release.

She added that teens who have difficulty in school may be more likely to drop out and find work in places where smoking rates are higher. She noted that drinking may be linked to starting to smoke because it reduces inhibitions and self control.

“Our study indicates that it is also important to address prevention among young adults, especially because advertising campaigns of tobacco companies specifically target this group,” she said. “This is particularly important because if we can prevent smoking onset among young adults, the likelihood that they will never become smokers is high,” she says.

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