Intention to Try Tobacco Among Middle School Students in a Predominantly Rural Environment of Central Appalachia

Document Type


Publication Date



Background: Disparities in tobacco use exist across regions in the United States. The Central Appalachian region carries some of the very high rates of tobacco use prevalence but research on tobacco use initiation is sparse. Objective: To investigate the intention to try tobacco and its associated factors among nonsmoking youth. Method: Data were obtained from school-based tobacco surveys (n = 539) conducted in 11 middle schools (6th–8th grades; aged 10–15 years) in Northeast Tennessee in 2015–2016. Nonsmoking participants without firm commitment to abstain from trying tobacco in the next year were considered to have an intention to try tobacco. The Full Information Maximum Likelihood estimation (FIML) method in Mplus was employed to conduct a multivariable logistic regression analysis to delineate correlates of intention to try tobacco. Results: Overall, 20.0% of participants had intention to try tobacco. Among participants with intention to try tobacco, 53.7% owned tobacco-branded item(s), 86.1% believed that tobacco users have more friends, and 88.9% lived with tobacco users. In the adjusted logistic model, ever use of tobacco products, home smoking rules, owning tobacco-branded item(s), living with tobacco users, believing that tobacco users have more friends, and perception of easy access to tobacco products were significantly associated with intention to try tobacco (p <.02). Conclusion: This study suggests that individual, interpersonal, and community level factors influence intention to try tobacco in this environment where tobacco pre-emption laws impede development of local tobacco control policies and regulations. Thus, efforts should focus on tobacco use initiation preventive programs, including school-based tobacco control programs.