WVU researchers profile teens who seek help to quit smoking

Findings may suggest ways to counter aggressive tobacco advertising

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Teen smokers who volunteer for programs to help them quit are more hooked on tobacco than other teens who smoke, new West Virginia University research has found. The teens believe quitting is a good idea, but they aren’t fully confident they’ll be able to kick the tobacco habit.

What’s more, teens who volunteer for help are 60 percent more likely to use smokeless tobacco and more than 200 percent more likely to smoke cigars when compared with teen smokers nationally.

The conclusions, published in the journal Tobacco Induced Diseases, come from analysis of data involving almost 6,000 teen smokers who enrolled in Not On Tobacco (N-O-T) between 1998 and 2006. Developed at WVU, N-O-T is the most widely used smoking-cessation program for teens in the nation.

“This is the first time anyone has looked at the characteristics of teens who’ve joined the school-based N-O-T programs,” said Kimberly Horn, Ed.D., lead author of the study. “Knowing more about these students will help us to tailor and market the program. N-O-T has reached thousands of teens, but we can do better.”

The study, in highlighting which teen smokers join the program, also will help researchers understand who is not joining. It is important to come up with ways to better entice those missing teens to show up, Horn said.

“The tobacco industry is notorious for effective marketing – it knows the audience. We need to be more effective than the industry in helping teens achieve the goal of quitting,” Horn said.

Researchers may need to develop better motivational messages to reach young pack-a-day smokers who’ve been hooked for years – such as teens in this study – messages presenting facts about addiction but also building confidence that the teens can be successful at quitting.

“The earlier a teen began smoking, the greater was his or her level of nicotine dependence,” “The N-O-T teens were not experimental smokers. They were moderately to highly nicotine dependent.”

By contrast, previous studies have classified about 80 percent of teen smokers as having low or very low levels of nicotine dependence, Horn said. “We now have strong evidence to show that teens get addicted – quickly.”

Horn is director of the Translational Tobacco Reduction Research Program (T2R2), a joint effort of WVU’s Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center and the West Virginia Prevention Research Center.

“In other findings, we determined that half of the teens used more than one tobacco product, with cigars being the most frequently used secondary tobacco product, followed by smokeless tobacco,” Horn said. “The teens who volunteered for N-O-T had started smoking earlier than others and had also made more previous attempts to quit.”

Almost all N-O-T teens had important people in their social networks who smoke – namely, parents, siblings, friends and boyfriends or girlfriends. “Interestingly, teens reported that parents were less likely to support quitting than were friends,” Horn said.

Researchers from the WVU Departments of Psychology, Community Medicine, and Pharmaceutical Systems and Policy collaborated with Horn on the study.
Developed by Horn and Geri Dino, Ph.D., director of the Prevention Research Center at WVU, Not On Tobacco is a school-based program that uses small-group settings to teach teens skills in stress management and stimulus control. The young smokers keep a journal as they learn about social influences and relapse prevention. The self-esteem boosting 10 weekly sessions are led by a facilitator who can be a teacher, counselor, school nurse or other trained staff.
In July N-O-T was added to the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services   .

For information on the Translational Tobacco Reduction Research Program (T2R2) at WVU see http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/mbrcc/t2r2/.

For the study see http://www.tobaccoinduceddiseases.com/content/4/1/6.


For more information:
Andrea Brunais, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
ab: 09-15-08

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