The study suggested schools' social environments influenced smoking rates
Pupils who experience positive and inclusive social environments in school are less likely to take up smoking, according to new research.
A study of high-school children suggested that current school-based anti-smoking interventions were "largely ineffective".
But the Medical Research Council (MRC) found that the wider school environment made a difference.
It looked at more than 5,000 pupils in 24 Scottish schools.
The study was led by Marion Henderson of the MRC social and public health sciences unit in Glasgow.
She said: "The social environment of schools, in particular the quality of teacher-pupil relationships, pupils' attitude to school and the school's focus on caring and inclusiveness, all influence both boys' and girls' smoking habits."
Decreases in adult smoking rates in recent years have not been matched in younger smokers.
Dr Henderson and her colleagues found that, on average, 25% of males and 39% of females aged 15-16, reported that they either regularly or occasionally smoked.
Speaking about current school-based anti-smoking measures she said: "Most focus on individual characteristics rather than the environment in which adolescents smoke.
"Our research has shown that this environment acts to either encourage or discourage smoking."
The research showed "school effects" remained even after other factors, such as whether pupils smoked before joining, whether they lived with both parents and how much personal spending money they had, were taken into account.
Dr Henderson said: "Our results suggest that investing in the social environment of schools and endeavouring to make school a positive experience even for less academically able pupils may have the potential to reduce smoking rates, particularly for boys."
The research has been published in the open access journal BMC Public Health.