From February 2017, information about the work of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow is available and updated on the University of Glasgow website.


Early analyses of the Twenty-07 study highlighted the way family life impacted on smoking; 15 year-olds who spent more time in family activities were less likely to smoke, even when other factors like deprivation were taken into account. Subsequent work on the 11 to 16/16+ study confirmed the importance of both family structure and parenting styles, young people in lone-parent and step-families, and those reporting lower levels of ‘parental care', being more likely to smoke. The analysis also demonstrated the way smoking varied between schools, pupils in schools with lower levels of smoking being more engaged with school and education.

Smoking is also strongly related to  social class, particularly in early adolescence, its impact increasing in significance with increasing levels of tobacco consumption.  Parental smoking is only a small part of the explanation for higher smoking among young people from lower social classes.  The same is true of personal income (pocket money etc.) which was found to be inversely related to social class. However, while smoking increased with personal income among young people from non-manual class backgrounds, this was much less evident for those from manual classes.  This finding was interpreted in terms of differences in tobacco availability and cost, lower SES youth being more likely to have parents and friends who smoke and the ability to source cheaper cigarettes from the illicit market, while their higher SES counterparts may be forced to obtain tobacco from legal retail outlets at a higher price.

Analyses also showed that a significant minority of young people take up smoking in mid to late adolescence, when peer influences continue to be important.  This last finding poses a challenge to the assumption that the uptake of smoking is essentially a phenomenon of early adolescence.  

Studies, mainly conducted in the USA, have found associations between exposure to smoking in films and smoking initiation in young adolescents in the USA.  In collaboration with the original researchers, Jim Sargent and colleagues, and using their methods to estimate the amount of smoking seen in films, the association between ‘movie smoking’ and smoking was investigated among the 11 to 16/16+ cohort at age 19.  No associations were found.  These results could be due to methodological differences, greater sophistication of older adolescents and young adults in interpreting media images, or the greater ubiquity of real-life smoking instances in Scotland.  If the latter, film smoking exposure could become a more important risk factor for smoking uptake and maintenance in older adolescence following the 2006 Scottish ban on smoking in public places.  Work in this area has continued within the Gender and Health Programme.




Hunt K, Sweeting H, Sargent J, Lewars H, Dal Cin S, Worth K. An examination of the association between seeing smoking in films and tobacco use in young adults in the West of Scotland: cross-sectional study. Health Education Research 2009;24:22-31

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West P. The changing evidence-base: further challenges for smoking prevention [commentary]. Addiction 2009;104:651-2

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West P, Sweeting H, Young R. Smoking in Scottish youths: personal income, parental social class and the cost of smoking. Tobacco Control 2007;16:329-335

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West P, Sweeting H, Leyland AH. School effects on pupils' health behaviours: evidence in support of the health promoting school. Research Papers in Education 2004;19:261-291


Sweeting H, West P. Young people's leisure and risk-taking behaviours: changes in gender patterning in the West of Scotland during the 1990s. Journal of Youth Studies 2003;6:391-412


Sweeting H, West P. Social class and smoking at age 15: the effect of different definitions of smoking. Addiction 2001;96:1357-9

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Ely M, West P, Sweeting H, Richards M. Teenage family life, life chances, lifestyles, and health: a comparison of two contemporary cohorts. International Journal of Law, Policy & the Family 2000;14:1-30


West P, Sweeting H, Ecob R. Family and friends' influences on the uptake of regular smoking from mid-adolescence to early adulthood. Addiction 1999;94:1397-1412



Sweeting H, West P, Richards M. Teenage family life, lifestyles, and life chances: associations with family structure, conflict with parents and joint family activity. International Journal of Law, Policy & the Family 1998;12:15-46


Green G, Macintyre S, West P, Ecob R. Like parent like child? Associations between drinking and smoking behaviour of parents and their children. British Journal of Addiction 1991;86:745-58

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Former Staff