Research suggests peer pressure can be useful to get teens to stop smoking.

Around half of the 14- and 15-year-olds surveyed in a new study have carried out at least one behaviour during the past year to discourage smoking, most often by telling their peers that smoking is bad for their health; to stop smoking; that they do not like smoking; and that smoking is a waste of money.

By contrast, fewer than one in ten 14- and 15-year-olds did something to encourage smoking among their peers, most typically by giving them a cigarette or offering to share a cigarette.

The findings come from a new study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

The study used data from a survey of 2919 Year 10 students.

The study’s lead researcher, Dr Louise Marsh, says the tobacco industry often uses the argument that smoking is prevalent among young people due to peer pressure.

“Our findings suggest that there is considerable promotion of non-smoking in the opposite direction,” Dr Marsh said

“This was the case even among young people who reported smoking.”

Those students who discouraged smoking were also more likely to report exposure to anti-smoking messages from a range of sources including classes at school, smokefree events and smokefree adverts.

The researchers say this is positive in that it indicates the spreading of smokefree messages throughout the community might influence young peoples’ desire to be “agents of change”, and to spread their own smokefree messages.