South Africa - survey of youngsters smoking and drinking hablits..

August 19, 2009 - TNS Research Surveys, which interviewed 1,000 South African teenagers ranging in age from 13 to 19 years, from the seven major metropolitan areas. The home survey asked youngsters if they had "lots of friends" who were smoking, drinking and/or using drugs. (The reason for asking about the behavior of their friends, but not themselves, was to elicit more honest answers. This was especially important with teenagers under 16, whose caregivers were required to be present during the interview.)

The highest concentration of smoking was found in Cape Town, where 44 percent of teenagers interviewed said they had lots of friends who smoked. The rate among 13-year-olds was 15 percent. This worries Peter Ucko, director of the National Council against Smoking, who says exposure to smoking makes it more likely that teenagers will themselves become hooked on cigarettes. "If they are exposed to it at home, with friends, in movies, in advertising in sport, they are more likely to smoke." The high number of smoking teens could explain drug abuse in the country, said Ucko.

Ucko: "Nicotine is the gateway drug. Few people who don't smoke do other drugs. Most people who take other drugs are also smokers."

The survey found that the highest concentration of drug use was in East London, where 17 percent of respondents had lots of friends who used drugs. Cape Town was second, at 12 percent. Peer pressure was hugely influential in determining a teenager's use and abuse of alcohol too, said Adel Grobbelaar, a trustee for Alcoholics Anonymous.

Grobbelaar said drinking was "definitely increasingly" among young South Africans. The organization was recently called to a primary school in the Johannesburg area where 10 pupils ranging in age from 10 to 13 were intoxicated. "It's a socialisation. They say, 'Dad's drunk, so why can't I do it?'" she said.

Reference: Does your teenager smoke and drink? by Sonya Bell,, 7/1/2009.

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