Smoking is known to be initiated during adolescence, making this age group a relevant target for intervention. Quantitative survey data from a sample of Romanian teenagers (N=1562) as well as qualitative data (30 interviews) were gathered as part of the Health Behavior in School Children Study. Psychosocial factors related to smoking onset, maintenance and reasons for quitting, as well as gender differences in tobacco use were explored. Results show that more teenagers experiment with smoking rather than actually being regular smokers. Gender differences emerge in smoking behavior, with boys smoking more and starting cigarette use earlier. Different reasons are provided by boys and girls for initiating and maintaining this habit, confirming the need for different approaches to intervention. Smoking, as well as smoking early initiation are is significantly associated with having more friends who smoke; having a bad communication with onesï¿½ mother, experiencing negative emotions, having a low social self esteem and being engaged in other risk behaviors. The number of friends who smoke, negative emotions and being engaged in other risk behaviors predict smoking frequency in the 15 year old sample, while cognitive factors like general self-efficacy and social self esteem do not. Negative ï¿½smoker prototypesï¿½ as well as gender differences in choosing strategies to withstand taking up smoking were identified. Therefore, interventions to prevent smoking initiation in teenagers should start early, integrate gender differences, focus on increasing the ability to resist peer pressure, develop negative smoker prototypes, promote control of negative emotions and aim at increasing frequency of alternative behaviors like physical exercise.
KEYWORDS: adolescents, risk behavior, smoking, social-cognitive theory, smoker prototype, interviews, content analysis.