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Using social identity to explore the link between a decline in adolescent smoking and an increase in mobile phone use

Simon Cassidy (Directorate of Psychology, School of Community and Health Sciences, University of Salford, Salford, UK)

Health Education

ISSN: 0965-4283

Article publication date: 1 May 2006

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2980

Abstract

Purpose

The study seeks to further explore the hypothesised link between the increase in mobile phone ownership and use and the reported decline in adolescent smoking. Evidence for the link was gathered by examining perceptions of mobile phone use in the context of social identity and adolescent smoking.

Design/methodology/approach

The study developed and employed a questionnaire‐based survey design asking a sample of student participants to characterise mobile phone users using a semantic differential scale. Data were also collected in relation to individual levels and patterns of mobile phone usage. The sample consisted of 172 undergraduate students studying in the Faculty of Health based in a UK university.

Findings

Findings show first that mobile phone use is associated with a number of positive, desirable personal and social attributes relating to concepts of social identity and image formation, and that many of the attributes associated with mobile phone use are those commonly associated with smoking behaviour.

Research limitations/implications

The association between mobile phone use and social identity theory provides a theoretical framework which helps explain the prolific rise in mobile phone use and can be used to support the viability of a link between a decline in levels of adolescent smoking and a rise in mobile phone ownership. Further evidence needs to be gathered which examines both behaviours in a single cohort of adolescents to establish the direct impact of mobile phone use on smoking behaviour in this particular group.

Practical implications

Mobile phone use may serve as a displacement behaviour for smoking in adolescents and may provide an example of a positive – as opposed to a negative – addiction, given that it is a potential alternative to smoking in adolescents.

Originality/value

The paper provides an examination of the health implications of a modern‐day social phenomenon. It draws on and draws together established theory and empirical work to further advance a previously proposed link between smoking and mobile phone use. Establishing such a link has important implications for health education and promotion activities.

Keywords

Citation

Cassidy, S. (2006), "Using social identity to explore the link between a decline in adolescent smoking and an increase in mobile phone use", Health Education, Vol. 106 No. 3, pp. 238-250. https://doi.org/10.1108/09654280610658578

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited