STUDY OBJECTIVE: To test whether college youth smoking risks are independently associated with community patterns of alcohol availability and control.
DESIGN: Hierarchical multilevel multivariable modelling of cross sectional survey data. Outcomes included self reported current (past 30 day) cigarette smoking and heavy episodic (binge) drinking.
SETTING: 120 nationally representative US colleges.
PARTICIPANTS: 10 924 randomly selected students.
MAIN RESULTS: Individual risks for smoking and binge drinking are independently associated with community patterns of alcohol availability, policy enforcement and control over and above individual perceptions about these factors, student and college characteristics, and school binge drinking rates. Youth exposed to high levels of alcohol availability are at higher risk of smoking (OR 3.61, 95% CI 1.75, 7.44) and binge drinking (OR 4.22, 95% CI 2.25, 7.93) than youth not so exposed; youth exposed to strongly enforced alcohol policy environments are at lower risk for smoking (OR 0.30, 95% CI 0.16, 0.57) and binge drinking (OR 0.17, 95% CI 0.10, 0.31) than youth not so exposed; youth exposed to communities with strong parental controls are at lower risk for smoking (OR 0.05, 95% CI 0.01, 0.23) and binge drinking (OR 0.06, 95% CI 0.01, 0.21) than youth not so exposed. Individual risks related to environmental exposures differ for youth with varying perceptions about alcohol availability and policy control.
CONCLUSIONS: Drinking environments in US college communities comprise strong independent risks for smoking. Smoking prevention models should be tested that include environmental drinking prevention strategies tailored to underlying perceptions and experiences of college youth.