Evidence of the Value of the Smoking Media Literacy Framework for Middle School Students
Background: Susceptibility to future smoking, positive beliefs about smoking, and perceptions of antismoking norms are all factors that are associated with future smoking. In previous research, smoking media literacy (SML) has been associated with these variables, even when controlling for other known risk factors for smoking. However, these studies were performed with older teenagers, often in high school, not younger teens at a crucial developmental point with respect to the decision to begin smoking. Methods: This study uses survey data collected from 656 American public middle school students representing multiple zip codes, schools, and school districts. Results: Smoking media literacy levels for middle school students were similar to those of high school students in earlier studies. Higher SML levels were associated with lower susceptibility to future smoking and predicted susceptibility to smoke when controlling for other risk factors. This suggests that the same relationships found with teenagers may exist with middle school students. Conclusions: Although follow-up studies using larger and more controlled administrations of the SML scale are warranted, this study suggests the utility of the SML framework and scale in the development and investigation of media literacy as a prevention strategy in students this age.