Adolescent smoking and tertiary education: opposing pathways linking socio-economic background to alcohol consumption

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

August 15, 2016


Background and Aims: If socio-economic disadvantage is associated with more adolescent smoking, but less participation in tertiary education, and smoking and tertiary education are both associated with heavier drinking, these may represent opposing pathways to heavy drinking. This paper examines contextual variation in the magnitude and direction of these associations. Design: Comparing cohort studies. Setting: United Kingdom. Participants: Participants were from the 1958 National Child Development Study (NCDS58; n = 15 672), the British birth cohort study (BCS70; n = 12 735) and the West of Scotland Twenty-07 1970s cohort (T07; n = 1515). Measurements: Participants self-reported daily smoking and weekly drinking in adolescence (age 16 years) and heavy drinking (> 14/21 units in past week) in early adulthood (ages 22–26 years). Parental occupational class (manual versus non-manual) indicated socio-economic background. Education beyond age 18 was coded as tertiary. Models were adjusted for parental smoking and drinking, family structure and adolescent psychiatric distress. Findings: Respondents from a manual class were more likely to smoke and less likely to enter tertiary education (e.g. in NCDS58, probit coefficients were 0.201 and –0.765, respectively; P < 0.001 for both) than respondents from a non-manual class. Adolescent smokers were more likely to drink weekly in adolescence (0.346; P < 0.001) and more likely to drink heavily in early adulthood (0.178; P < 0.001) than adolescent non-smokers. Respondents who participated in tertiary education were more likely to drink heavily in early adulthood (0.110 for males, 0.182 for females; P < 0.001 for both) than respondents with no tertiary education. With some variation in magnitude, these associations were consistent across all three cohorts. Conclusions: In Britain, young adults are more likely to drink heavily both if they smoke and participate in tertiary education (college and university) despite socio-economic background being associated in opposite directions with these risk factors.

Published in


Volume and page numbers

Volume: 111 , p.1 -1






Open Access article

© 2016 The Authors. Addiction published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Society for the Study of Addiction

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.



Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author


Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society


Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs


Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report


Key research themes and areas of interest