Prevention Science, Vol. 6, No. 1, March 2005 (
Where Public School Students in Illinois Get Cigarettes and
Alcohol: Characteristics of Minors Who Use Different Sources
Sunyna S. Williams
and Peter F. Mulhall
The current study examined demographic, behavior, belief, and social inﬂuence character-
istics of adolescents who use various means to get cigarettes and alcohol. Spring 1998 sur-
vey participants were 7,302 6th, 8th, and 10th grade public school students from throughout
Illinois, who self-identiﬁed as tobacco smokers and/or alcohol drinkers. The sample was not
random, but closely matched the demographic composition of the state. Logistic regression
analysis was used to examine the effect of each independent variable on each of the cigarette
sources and each of the alcohol sources. For both cigarettes and alcohol, adolescents used
commercial sources far less than they did social sources such as family and friends. Also,
older adolescents and those who are heavier and more entrenched smokers or drinkers were
more likely to use both commercial and social sources. Other factors related to use of various
sources included beliefs, social inﬂuences, and environmental inﬂuences. These ﬁndings have
many implications for intervention, especially by parents and policymakers, and suggest an
increased emphasis on social sources adolescents use to obtain cigarettes and alcohol.
KEY WORDS: adolescents; alcohol; cigarettes; tobacco.
Tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption are
widespread among underage adolescents, the vast
majority of whom have engaged in each behavior at
least once, and a substantial minority of whom do
one or both regularly (Bauman & Phongsavan, 1999;
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2000).
Both behaviors are of public health concern, because
behaviors that contribute to mortality and morbid-
ity in adulthood often are established during adoles-
cence. Smoking is of particular concern, both because
of the addictive properties of nicotine and because
each cigarette smoked increases the risk of mor-
bidity and mortality (Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, 2000). Examination of the means by
Ofﬁce of Research, Development, and Information Centers for
Medicare & Medicaid Services, Baltimore, Maryland.
Center for Prevention Research and Development, University of
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Illinois.
Correspondence should be directed to Sunyna S. Williams
PhD, Center for Beneﬁciary Choices, Centers for Medicare &
Medicaid Services, 7500 Security Boulevard, Mail Stop: C3-20-
17, Baltimore, Maryland 21244; e-mail: sunyna.williams@cms.
which adolescents obtain cigarettes and alcohol can
lead to the development of more effective preventive
interventions and policies. At this time, little research
has been conducted in this area.
A few surveys have examined the methods un-
derage smokers use to get cigarettes. This research
shows that most minors usually get cigarettes from
somebody else (American Legacy Foundation, 2000;
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1996;
Forster et al., 1997; Gratias et al., 1999; Harrison
et al., 2000), usually friends and sometimes relatives
(DiFranza et al., 1994; Jason et al., 1999b). Also, one
survey found that most adolescent smokers provide
cigarettes to adolescent friends (Wolfson et al., 1997),
and another found that adolescents are far more
likely to get cigarettes from friends than from stores
(Robinson et al., 1998). However, little research has
examined either social sources for cigarettes other
than friends or the interactive impact of various
sources. Therefore, the current study inquired about
a variety of possible sources for obtaining cigarettes.
Interestingly, although adolescents perceive
easy access to cigarette vending machines and
2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.