Young Adult Smoking in Peer Groups: An Experimental Observational Study

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The aim of this experimental observational study is to examine whether, in a group setting (same-sex triads), passive peer influence (imitation) in the context of homogeneous and heterogeneous (contradictory) behavior of peer models affects young adults’ smoking behavior.


An experiment was conducted among 48 daily-smoking college and university students aged 17–25. Participants had to complete a 30-min music task with two same-sex confederates. We tested the following three conditions: (a) neither of the confederates is smoking, (b) one confederate is smoking and the other is not, and (c) both confederates are smoking. The primary outcome tested was the total number of cigarettes smoked during the task.


Students in the condition with two smoking peer models and in the condition with one smoking peer model and one nonsmoking peer model smoked significantly more cigarettes than those in the condition with two nonsmoking peer models. However, results for the condition with two smoking peer models did not differ significantly from the condition with one smoking peer model and one nonsmoking peer model.


Our findings show that in a group setting, the impact of the homogeneity of smoking peers on young adults’ smoking behavior is not greater than the impact of the heterogeneity of smoking and nonsmoking peers. This would suggest that the smoking peer in the group has a greater impact on the daily-smoking young adult, thus reducing or even eliminating the protective effect of the nonsmoking peer model.

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