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Lesson 2: Why do some people become smokers and others do not?


This lesson introduces the driving question of the entire unit, “Why do some people become smokers and others do not?” Students learn that there are many factors, including genetic and environmental, that may contribute to smoking behavior and begin to identify ones that are interesting to them. Students form research groups of four students based on specific factors they would like to study further, and they work together in these groups for the rest of the unit. Using profiles of actual smokers, students identify patterns in people’s smoking behaviors. They begin to collect evidence from the profiles to inform their future database research

Class Time: 100-120 minutes (2 days)

Learning Objectives Evidence
 Students will understand that environmental and genetics factors contribute to smoking behavior in humans Students recognize the types of smoking behaviors people describe and different factors that can be associated with smoking in the smoker profiles.
Several factors that may be associated with smoking behavior include: having peers who smoked, feeling a buzz, being allowed to smoke at home, and having cravings.
 Students develop preliminary hypotheses based on evidence from the smoker profiles Students write and discuss hypotheses about why people become regular smokers and justify them with supporting evidence from the smoker profiles.



Day 1: Smoker profiles evaluation

Section A. What factors contribute to smoking behavior

1. Tell students that today they will be using Smoker Profiles of real smokers to identify common factors that influence smoking behavior. (There are 11 smoker profiles. Some of those factors will be environmental, such as a person having friends who smoke, and some will be physiological, such as a person feeling a buzz.)

2. Have students get into groups of two to four, and give each group four different smoker profiles. Ask each student group to read one profile (or all if there is time). Then ask students to respond to the questions on Blank_Student Sheet 2.1 as a group by pooling the information they have gleaned from each of the profiles they’ve read.

3. After students have read the smoker profiles, ask them question number six from Student Sheet 2.1: “Why do some people become smokers and others do not?” Provide evidence from the profiles for those claims. For example, someone who has a parent who smokes is more likely to be a smoker.”

4. Provide each student with Blank_Student Sheet 2.2, and fill out. Project Blank_Student Sheet 2.2, and fill out each section of the chart as a class. Ask each group to suggest one or two factors for each of the first three boxes, using their notes from Student Sheet 2.1. As teams present, also ask them to identify whether their statements might be genetic, environmental, or both. Introduce terms such as addiction, drug abuse, nicotine, or withdrawal, and write the definition in the bottom box (definitions are provided in Glossary from the National Institute On Drug Abuse). Encourage all students to take notes on Student Sheet 2.2 as the other groups present, as they will want to use this information later as part of their final project. Try to stress the following concepts during presentions and discussion:

●    Smoking behavior is influenced by both environmental and physiological factors.

●    Physiological factors (traits) are determined wholly or in part by genes. Many of the physiological factors we discuss in this unit, such as feeling a buzz when smoking, are probably determined almost entirely by genes. In this unit we will equate physiological factors with genetic factors. Students may have difficulty making the connection that a physiological trait is caused by a gene. If so, review central dogma: DNA (a gene) codes for mRNA, which is translated into a protein, which results in a trait. How quickly students are able to equate physiological factors with genetic factors will depend on their familiarity with central dogma and how often they have applied it.

●   Regular smoking is a trait that is determined by multiple factors, including both genetic and environmental factors which we called “multifactorial traits.” You may want to encourage students to suggest other multifactorial traits. Some examples include behaviors like intelligence, height, weight, and many common diseases, such as heart disease or type 2 diabetes.

●    Environmental and genetic factors contribute to different stages of smoking to different extents, a feature your students should notice as they evaluate the smoker profiles. For example, initiation is believed to be more heavily influenced by environmental factors, while maintenance and quitting have a stronger genetic influence.

Video- Review of Student Sheet 2.1 and discussion of smoker profiles with class


HOMEWORK: Provide each student with a copy of the Homework_SmokingQuestionnaire . Ask students to complete the questionnaire as if they were the person in the profile they read. This will help students understand how the study was conducted and learn what questions are in the smoking behavior database.

Day 2: Discussing the smoker profiles and introduction to the Smoking Behavior database

Section B. What Factors Might Influence Someone Becoming a Regular Smoker After Trying It?

1. Show Figure 2.2 and explain this is a way to show the stages of smoking. Ask student groups to show what each stage represents by placing the following 4 smoker profiles in one of the four stages on the diagram: Barbara (nonsmoker), Mark (former smoker), Drew (regular smoker), and Kayley (experimental smoker or regular smoker).

2. Ask students where they placed each person on the diagram and why. Point out that the data they will analyze targets the stage in which people are experimenting with smoking. Color the arrows that point from Experimental smokers to Nonsmokers and from Experimental smokers to Regular smokers. Explain that they will be comparing two groups of people, those who initiated and then became regular smokers (cases) and those who initiated but went back to being nonsmokers (controls).

3. Guide students in identifying related factors that might influence whether or not someone becomes a regular smoker after initiating, based on the smoker profiles and their own observations of smokers and nonsmokers. Record these as a list or in a simple concept map.  These factors are the research topic areas that students may choose to investigate as part of this unit.

Section C. Introduction to the Questionnaire and Database

1. Ask students to get out their copy of the Homework_SmokingQuestionnaire

2.Project the database in the front of the room, and select “Step 1.1. Subject-classification and matching questions”
You can go directly to the database without logging on by selecting “Preview a project.”
3. Select question 1 (How many cigarettes have you smoked in your entire life?). As you are displaying question 1, remind students that cases are smokers and controls are people who tried smoking but did not become smokers. Show the table and graph, and explain that the graph shows the number of cases and the number of controls that gave each response.  Now select “Step 1.3 Hypothesis Testing” in the left column. Near the top of the page, select “Show 100 entries” to show all the questions available for testing their research hypotheses. As a class, look through the questions to find connections to each topic area you just discussed. Let students know that they will explore four of these questions that relate to their research topic.

Some topic areas student may identify are:

• Family smoking              • Physiological/genetic effects

• Peer influences               • Media influences
• Public policy (restaurant smoking, age for buying cigarettes, etc.)

Topics covered well in the questionnaire

This list will help you to guide students toward research topics that can be investigated using the database.

•  Features of their experimental smoking phase such as age of onset, duration, intensity of smoking, places where they usually smoked (questions 12-17)

•  Physiological effects of smoking during experimental smoking (questions 18a-18i)

•  Genetic factors (questions 103-105)

•  Subject’s attitudes toward smoking during experimental smoking stage (questions 19-21)

•  Parent and family influences on smoking (questions 26-36)

•  Peer influences on smoking (questions 37-40)

•  Influences at school (questions 41-46)

•  Influences at work (questions 47-50)

•  Influences of religion and ethnicity (not a strong topic, questions 51-52)

•  Influences of advertising and the media (questions 53-55)

•  Influences of public policy (questions 56-61)

•  Life during the teen years (lifestyle, diet, exercise, participation in organized activities, drinking) (questions 62-67)

•  Emotional state during teen years (questions 68-70)

•  Antismoking education during teen years and in school (questions 41-44, 71-72)

•  Level of education and economic status (questions 80-83)


Section D. Forming Research Teams and the Team Research Investigation

1. Explain to students that they may select up to four questions that can be used to investigate each research topic to answer the question, “Why do some people become regular smokers and others do not?”. If students can’t find any questions that seem related to their research topic, they will need to select a different topic.

Here are a few sample topics and a possible question for each topic.

Physiological/Genetic #18.1: During your experimental smoking phase, did you experience any of the following regularly? – A pleasurable feeling

Family #26: While you were growing up, how many of your parents/guardians smoked at all?

Education background #41: When you were in school, were you taught about the dangers of smoking (for example, lung cancer, heart disease, fire hazards)?

Media #54: While you were growing up, how often did you see smoking advertisements on television, radio, billboards, posters, newspapers, and magazines?

Peers #40: During your experimental smoking phase, did your friends think that smoking was “cool”?


2. Guide students in identifying the particular topic area that interests them, and group students in research teams of four students based on their shared research interests.  Make sure that each research topic is well covered in the questionnaire—if not, it may be necessary to combine a few related topics. Throughout the unit there will be sharing among teams, but each team will stay focused on the topic they select. Make sure each group pursues a different topic so as a class you have a wide range of research ideas being investigated.

The goal is for students to test their own hypotheses within the limits of the UW Smoking Behavior Research Study. Certain topic areas (for example, ethnic and religious background) are not well addressed in the database. Students explore these topics in the Hypothesis Generation portion of the curriculum.


3. Explain to students that some of the constraints of using an existing database to test hypotheses is that you must first develop your overarching hypothesis BEFORE analyzing the data AND you can only ask a few questions. To explain the second point, show students Figure 2.3_Explaining the multiple comparison problem. The more tests you perform, the greater the likelihood that you will incur a false association, so we are limiting our study to only four questions.

Students (and the general public) may have difficulty understanding the Multiple Comparison problem. Here are some ideas for explaining this concept

  1. It may be helpful to explain the problem in context of the scientific method which requires a well-developed hypothesis before testing with an experiment and creating new hypotheses from the generated data.
  2. A Super Bowl analogy may also help. Imagine that a group of friends all have to miss the Super Bowl game because they’re going to be out hiking in the mountains. They decide that they’ll watch the late night re-play and pretend that the game hasn’t happened yet. They all promise not to listen to any reports of the game or talk to other people about who won. Before watching the game, they set up a friendly wager about who will win and what the point spread will be. This is analogous to hypothesis testing, where the researcher forms a hypothesis before accessing the data. Now, imagine that one of the friends wants to hedge his bets, so he proposes that he’ll enter 20 different wagers, with different combinations of winners and point spreads. His buddies say, “You must be kidding. You’ll increase your odds of winning 20X if you do that!” This is like doing lots of queries during hypothesis testing. Another person just can’t help herself, and she checks the final score on her cell phone before the game begins. And low and behold, she selects the winning team and point spread.This is analogous to forming a hypothesis after looking at the data, which is not appropriate during hypothesis testing. After they have watched the game and know the outcome, the friends go back and watch the game play by play, so they can analyze how each play contributed to each team doing well or poorly. They propose strategies for each coach and team to improve their playing in the next season.This is kind of like hypothesis generation.


4. After students are sitting with their groups, ask them to get out their Research Project Pages. Read the first page of the document as a class, and give students opportunities to ask questions. Throughout the unit they will be collecting information and items such as graphs, research results, paragraphs they write, and quotes to use in their final project.


5. Ask each group to complete Blank_RPP_Lesson2 . They should discuss their responses as a group, but each student should complete their own sheet.

HOMEWORK (optional): Hand out Blank_Student Sheet 2.3 and have students read about the stages of smoking. Ask students to highlight or record three points in the reading that might be important to their group’s topic.

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