Public and private domains of religiosity and adolescent smoking transitions

James Nonnemaker, Clea A. McNeely, Robert Wm Blum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


We used data from a nationally representative sample of US adolescents in school grades 7 through 12 to explore the effects of public and private religiosity on initiation, escalation, and cessation of smoking. We found that adolescents' decisions to experiment with smoking are influenced by both their individual practice of their faith and by participation in a larger faith community. However, the effects of private and public religiosity are specific to different decision points on the smoking uptake process. Private religiosity was protective against initiation of regular smoking among nonsmokers. It also was protective against initiation of experimental smoking but only when the young person frequently attended religious services or a religious youth group. Although private religiosity appeared to discourage the uptake of smoking, it was unrelated to reduction or cessation once a young person has become addicted to cigarettes. In contrast, public religiosity did predict reduction and cessation of cigarette use among regular smokers. Taken together, these findings demonstrate that the domains in which religiosity are important extend beyond the individual and include religious institutions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3084-3095
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 2006


  • Adolescents
  • Cessation
  • Religiosity
  • Smoking uptake
  • Transitions
  • USA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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