Teens Will Quit Smoking to Save Others
MONDAY, Dec. 4 (HealthScout) -- Teens and young adults -- those folks who take the car without asking and pretend not to hear when you ask them to turn down the music -- apparently are more likely to stop smoking if they think their smoke could harm those
Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
"The kids were more concerned about [the harmful effects] of secondhand smoke than they were concerned about themselves," says Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and lead author of a telephone survey of 600 teen-agers on smoking.
The belief that secondhand smoke harmed people around them more than doubled the chances that the young smokers were planning to stop their habit in 30 days or already had quit, the survey says.
However, the same wasn't true when the young people were asked whether they were worried about their own health risks because of smoking. Glantz says the responses were not statistically significant as an indicator that concern would lead them to quit smoking.
The researchers surveyed 300 smokers and 300 non-smokers between 14 and 22 years of age.
Previous studies have found that the ill effects of secondhand smoke are enough to prompt adult smokers to quit or at least consider it, but Glantz says this is the first proof that teens also are affected by these concerns.
"Like adults, kids are concerned about the effects [of smoking] on others," he says. "One of the big mistakes that [anti-smoking] people have made is that they've treated kids differently from adults."
The tobacco companies treat kids like adults, and that's part of the allure, Glantz says. Those trying to get kids to stop smoking should do the same, he says.
Linda Pederson, senior epidemiologist in the Office of Smoking and Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says that, if the research methods of the survey are found to be adequate, the finding could be quite important.
"It [would be] a useful way to prevent kids from smoking," Pederson says.
"While one size doesn't fit all --what works in one group doesn't work in another group -- this could be very important for a certain subgroup of kids," she says.
Approximately 4 million teen-agers smoke, according to the American Heart Association, and more than 3,000 teens under the age of 18 become daily smokers every day. If current trends continue, about 5 million of those teens eventually will die of some disease attributable to smoking, the association estimates.
Previous studies of how anti-tobacco advertising affects people have shown that worry about secondhand smoke, information about the addictive qualities of tobacco and reports about the tobacco industry's dishonest behavior are the three most highly effective messages that influence people to stop smoking, Glantz says.
"People who design tobacco-control programs for teens should be putting more emphasis on clean indoor air and secondhand smoke and less on things like youth access [to cigarettes]," he says.
Results of the telephone survey, funded by the National Cancer Institute, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, appear in the December issue of Pediatrics.
What To Do
For more on the dangers of environmental smoke, visit the American Heart Association online. Loads of information about how to stop smoking, about the dangers of smoking and on court cases about smoking can be found at the Web site of Action on Smoking and Health.
Or, you might want to read previous HealthScout articles on teen smoking and others on secondhand smoke.