Cigarette Smoking And High School Drop Out

by admin on October 11, 2022

By Annika Lindorsson Krugel

The American Lung Association has indentified smoking as the leading source of preventable disease and illness as well as the main cause of premature death in the country. This should not come as a surprise to anyone, seeing the large amount of information and research available about the dangers of smoking.

The Cost Of Smoking

Approximately 443,000 Americans die every year from smoke-related diseases. Importantly, these individuals are not just smokers; smoke-related disease also affect non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke as well as babies who are born prematurely due to prenatal maternal smoking.

It has been estimated that more than $192 billion was spent on treating the negative effects of smoking in 2004. This includes the more obvious medical expenditure but also money lost due to lost productivity.

Low Academic Achievement And Smoking

A factor that is somewhat less explored is the relationship between youth academic accomplishment and smoking. The idea is not by any means a new one; a study by Richard L. Sandwick from 1912 reads: “The odor of tobacco often accompanies low marks”.

A recent study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research indicates that 29 per cent of students who used tobacco did not complete school on time. In comparison, the figure for students who used alcohol was 20 per cent, and among those who used illicit drugs it was 24.6 per cent. “Kids who smoke had a much higher risk of dropping out than kids who drink alcohol or use other drugs. When we looked at smoking in combination with other substances, drinking and using drugs did not increase one’s risk of not completing high school on time. There’s no additional increment of risk of dropping out once you account for smoking,” said Joshua Breslau, lead author of the study.

Research by Aloise-Young, Cruickshank and Chavez also reports that school drop outs were 4.6 times more likely to smoke than their peers, with academically at-risk student 2.80 times more likely to smoke. The authors concluded that cigarette smoking among students with poor academic achievements, as well as with low educational expectations, is on average higher than it is among high-achievers.

Breslau added that these results suggest the poor academic performance contributes to smoking and that “breaking the connection between smoking and education may be essential to further reduction in the prevalence of smoking”.

Preventing Smoking Among Youth

This understanding could potentially contribute greatly to developing a strategy that is most effective in preventing young people from reaching for their first cigarette.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each day in the United States approximately 3,900 young people between 12 and 17 years of age smoke their first cigarette, and an estimated 1,000 youth become daily cigarette smokers. In 2007 20 per cent of high school students were reported smokers; 18.7 per cent of girls and 21.3 per cent of boys. Among middle school students the figure was 6.3 per cent for the same year; 6.4 of girls and 6.3 per cent of boys.

The CDC also identified other factors in addition to low academic achievement that are associated with smoking among teenagers. These include smoking by parents or lack of parental involvement, low self-image or self-esteem and low socioeconomic status.


American Lung Association, General Smoking Facts

Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Youth and Tobacco Use

Joshua Breslau (2010) Childhood and Adolescent-onset Psychiatric Disorders, Substance Use, and Failure to Graduate High School on Time, Journal of Psychiatric Research July 2010

Patricia A. Aloise-Young, Courtney Cruickshank & Ernest L. Chavez (2002) Cigarette Smoking and Perceived Health in School Dropouts: A Comparison of Mexican American and Non-Hispanic White Adolescents Journal of Pediatric Psychology (2002) 27 (6):497-507

Richard L. Sandwick (1912) The Use of Tobacco as a Cause of Failures and Withdrawals in One High School The School Review Vol. 20, No. 9 (Nov., 1912), pp. 623-625

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