Saewyc, EM. (2016). Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) in Canada: Focus on Relationships – Chapter 13. Substance Use. Public Health Agency of Canada

Although the continuing decline of cigarette smoking among adolescents in Canada is good news, the emergence of e-cigarettes use among adolescents bears watching. At present, the research is limited on the health effects of the liquids in e-cigarettes, and it is unclear whether they serve as a route to nicotine dependence and regular tobacco use (Grana et al, 2014). The concern is whether widespread e-cigarette availability will erase the gains in prevention of tobacco use seen over the past decade.

High peer support among boys does not appear to lead to lower substance use. There may be a few different mechanisms acting to explain this. First, a higher proportion of boys exhibit high sensation-seeking tendencies, which are linked both to higher likelihood of earlier onset of experimentation with alcohol or other drug use, as well as hazardous levels of substance use (Romer & Hennessy, 2007). Research has shown that peers with similar levels of sensation-seeking tend to associate, so those at highest risk for hazardous substance use are likely to become friends with youth with similar levels of sensation-seeking and substance use (Romer & Hennessy, 2007). The second mechanism may be the societal norms around masculinity that approve of or even valorize alcohol and other substance use among boys and young men (Iwamoto & Smiler, 2013). It is possible that changing norms around masculinity and substance use among boys may help reduce the chances that peers will spur each other to early initiation and more hazardous levels of use.

This survey affirms other studies that have demonstrated strong links between family, school, and community connectedness and lower risk for smoking, alcohol use, and other substance use (Smith et al., 2014; Poon, Saewyc & Chen, 2011). Findings suggest that ongoing efforts to encourage positive family relationships, school connectedness, and the presence of caring adults in the community can serve as emotional supports and role models in preventing early onset of substance use and problem substance use.

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