Cigarette smoking: a survey of the knowledge, attitudes and personal backgrounds of 4,504 senior high school students.

The purpose of this study was to investigate the smoking behavior, health knowledge, and attitudes toward smoking of students in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades of the San Diego Unified School District. The study was also focused on the relationship between the students' smoking behavior and variables such as health knowledge, attitudes, socioeconomic status, mental level, and educational aspirations. The questionnaire survey method was used to measure the students' smoking practices, knowledge, and attitudes. The random sample consisted of twenty percent of the total senior high school population and totaled 4,504. The data were transferred f.rom the questionnaire to computer cards, and a program that performed frequency counts was used. Chi square tests were calculated to investigate the relationship between·smoking behavior and other variables. The survey data revealed that the majority of students were nonsmokers, although most had previous experience with cigarettes. Overall, thirty-three percent of the males and twenty-seven percent of the females were classified as current smokers. The number of smokers increased with each successive grade level and at each grade level a-larger percentage of males smoked than did females. The majority of the smokers had begun smoking by age fourteen. Over two-thirds of the smokers predicted future smoking status, while only three percent of the nonsmokers felt that they would be smoking in the future. The students showed a high level of knowledge regarding the deleterious effects of cigarette smoking, especially the relationship between smoking and lung cancer. A significant relationship has found to exist between the students' smoking behavior and their level of knowledge, with the nonsmokers having the higher level of health knowledge. The attitudinal questions demonstrated the students' attitudes toward smoking corresponded with their smoking status, with the nonsmokeis expressing negative attitudes and the smokers indicating positive opinions. The mental level of the students and the level of educational aspiration were also related to the students smoking status, with the students who had the highest mental level and who expressed college as their educational goal having the lowest incidence of smoking. The socioeconomic class of the students was not found to be a determinant of smoking behavior.