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Resisting Smoking When a Best Friend Smokes: Do Intrapersonal and Contextual Factors Matter?


  • This research was supported by funds from the California Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program of the University of California, Grant Number 16RT-0169. This research uses data from Add Health, a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and funded by grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 23 other federal agencies and foundations. Special acknowledgment is due to Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Information on how to obtain the Add Health data files is available on the Add Health website ( No direct support was received from grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis.

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This longitudinal study examines individual differences in the tendency to initiate (= 4,612) and escalate (= 2,837) smoking when adolescents gain a best friend who smokes. Potential moderating factors include self-esteem, depression, problem behavior, school and family bonds, and household access to cigarettes. In addition to acquiring a smoking best friend, initiation was predicted by trouble at school, household access, poorer grades and delinquency, whereas escalation was predicted by depressive symptoms. There was little evidence that the examined individual difference factors moderate the association between gaining a smoking best friend and increased adolescent smoking. Results point to the challenges of identifying factors that may lead adolescents to be more or less susceptible to the influence of pro-smoking friends.