Cell Phones the Newest Teen Addiction

A new report claims that cigarettes are slowly being replaced by an equally addictive obsession - the mobile phone.

Among some of the reports findings:

A rise in mobile phone use during the late 1990s coincided with a decline in smoking among 15-year-olds.

The prevalence of smoking fell to 23% in 1999 from 30% in 1996, the same year mobile phone use skyrocketed among 15- to 17-year-olds

"We hypothesise that the fall in youth smoking and the rise in ownership of mobile phones among adolescents are related," the authors write. They suggest that many teens cannot afford to sustain both habits and prefer the cutting-edge technology over the smoking.

They also note that the device is associated with many of the traits that attract teens to cigarettes:

a sense of individuality and sociability

a desire to rebel

the need to bond with friends, the team notes.

"The marketing of mobile phones is rooted in promoting self-image and identity, which resembles cigarette advertising," the researchers write.

"As ownership increases, mobile phones will become essential for membership of peer groups that organise their social life on the move and by means of mobile phones," they conclude.

British Medical Journal November 4, 2000; 321: 1155