Perceptions of the Prevalence of Cigarette Smoking by Peers: a Study of Taiwanese, Filipino, and Thai High School Students

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S OUTHEAST ASIAN J T ROP MED P UBLIC H EALTH

PERCEPTIONS OF THE PREVALENCE OF CIGARETTE
SMOKING BY PEERS: A STUDY OF TAIWANESE, FILIPINO,
AND THAI HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS
Randy M Page 1, Emilia Patricia Zarco 2, Jiraporn Suwanteerangkul 3, Ching Mei-Lee 4, Nae-Fang Miao 5 a nd Jerry Taylor 1
1

Department of Health Science, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, USA; Department of Health Education, Adelphi University, Adelphi, New York, USA; 3
Department of Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai, Thailand; 4 Department of Health Education, National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei, Taiwan; 5
College of Nursing, Taipei Medical University, Taipei, Taiwan 2

Abstract. Youth cigarette smoking is a major public health concern in Southeast Asia. A suspected determinant of youth smoking is perceived peer behavior. Previous research has suggested that the probability that a teenager will use substances increases when there is the perception that most peers engage in the substance use behavior. This study aimed to assess the perceptions of the prevalence of peer cigarette smoking in samples of high school students from three Southeast Asian countries and to examine the association of these perceptions to self-reported personal use of cigarettes. Perceptions of the prevalence of peer smoking were generally characterized by the perception that most students do not smoke. However, a significant percentage of students held the perception that most students were current smokers. Students who held this perception were at increased risk of being current smokers relative to those who believed most students were not current smokers. The results of this study imply that public health programs may benefit from health promotion interventions which focus on dispelling misconceptions that most youth smoke cigarettes.

I NTRODUCTION

Smoking prevalence in Southeast Asia is
likely to increase (Choe et al, 2001). Multinational
tobacco companies are marketing their products

with increasing intensity in Asia, particularly targeting young people (Bettcher et al, 2000). Asia is often viewed by transnational tobacco companies as an “emerging market” for cigarettes and as a result is often targeted for expansion.

For example, 8,000 executives in the international tobacco industry are expected to attend the upcoming Emerging Tobacco Markets 2005
Convention in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in November 2005 which aims to provide “a fast-track gateway to all vigorous markets in the Asia region to promote tobacco products” (Anonymous, 2005). The web site advertising this event touts

that the convention is the “perfect opportunity
for all players in the tobacco industry, from inside of Asia or outside of Asia, to strengthen their position in the Asian region”.

Correspondence: Randy M Page, Department of
Health Science, 221 Richards Building, Brigham Young
University, Provo, Utah 84604, USA.
Tel: 801-422-1131; Fax: 801-422-0273
E-mail: randy_page@byu.edu

Continuing economic development in
Southeast Asia will also result in more youth
having disposable income for purchasing cigarettes. Economic development and modernization will probably also result in increases in the

Tobacco smoking is clearly one of the chief
preventable causes of death in the world. The
World Health Organization cites that cigarettes
are responsible for about five million deaths every year and that if current smoking patterns continue, that number could double by 2020
(WHO, 2004). Half the people who smoke today, about 650 million people, will eventually be killed by tobacco. According to Murray and
Lopez (1996), the Asian region is expected to
experience a fourfold increase in tobacco mortality between 1998 and 2030.

1346

Vol 36 No. 5 September 2005

P ERCEPTIONS

OF

PEER CIGARETTE SMOKING

prevalence of smoking in young females, which
presently is at lower rates than for young males
(Bettcher e t al ,...
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