The purpose of this study was to assess whether similar environmental factors predict adolescents' smoking in two different cultures: in the Pitkäranta district in Russian Karelia and in eastern Finland. The data were gathered by self-administered questionnaires from ninth-grade students in 10 comprehensive schools in Pitkäranta (n = 385) and from age-matched students in 24 schools in eastern Finland (n = 2,098). Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to test whether similar path structures fit for boys and for girls in Pitkäranta and in eastern Finland, and to test whether regression coefficients were similar between the cultures by sex. Smoking by family members and best friends was positively related to adolescents' smoking both directly and indirectly. Environmental factors were similar predictors of smoking between the cultures for boys. For girls, different regression coefficients in Pitkäranta and in eastern Finland were found. Best friend's smoking was the most important predictor of adolescents' own smoking in every sub-sample. When indirect relationships were identified, the significance of parents' and siblings' smoking, in addition to smoking by best friends, was strongly supported.
This study describes how ninth-grade adolescents' smoking behavior in the Pitkäranta district (Russia) differs from their eastern Finland counterparts. Cross-sectional data from the second North Karelia Youth Study and the Pitkäranta Youth Study were used. Subjects were all (n=385) ninth-grade students in 10 comprehensive schools in Pitkäranta and all (n=2098) students of the same age in 24 comprehensive schools in eastern Finland. Students were asked about their smoking status, intentions to smoke, smoking situations, acquisition of tobacco products, and opportunity to smoke in the school area. The results showed very large differences in the smoking prevalence between Pitkäranta and eastern Finland. For boys, the prevalence of daily smoking was 29% and 19% in Pitkäranta and eastern Finland, respectively. The differences in girls were adverse: 7% and 21% of girls in Pitkäranta and eastern Finland, respectively, were daily smokers. However, as many as one third of the nonsmoking girls in Pitkäranta stated that they may experiment or start smoking later. Boys in Pitkäranta had vaguer attitudes about remaining nonsmokers than boys in eastern Finland. This situation anticipates worsening of the smoking epidemic in Pitkäranta and requires an effective prevention policy and cooperation between different groups in society.