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The prevalence of adolescent smoking is increasing despite the fact that adolescents claim to recognize the health risks associated with this addictive behaviour. Why youth begin to smoke seems to be different from why adult smokers smoke. As such, interventions tailored specifically to the adolescent profile are likely to be more successful.
This fact sheet discusses the stages in the development of smoking behaviour in adolescence, applies the stages of change model to adolescents, provides intervention tips for cessation counselling with adolescent smokers and outlines the profiles of adolescent smoking in Canada.
Most smokers and most users of smokeless tobacco become addicted while still in adolescence (1).
It is estimated that smoking will be resposnsible for the premature death (before age 70 years) or 55% of young men and 51% of young women smokers now age 15 years, if they continue to smoke (2).
Young smokers go through a series of transitions and stages including preparation and anticipation, trying and experimenting, before they become regular, dependent smokers (3). While the movement through these stages is very individual, it can happen quite quickly. Many adolescents become addicted smokers in a just few years (4). Strategies aimed at any of these stages will reduce the number of young people who enter adulthood as regular, dependent smokers.
Most of the research on adolescent tobacco use has focused on the prevention of onset of smoking in young adolescents rather than on intervention with active smokers (6). Despite the general recognition that adolescents consider themselves immortal, and as such don’t believe that smoking will kill them, many teenagers who smoke are motivated to quit (7). Given the high, and increasing, level of adolescent smoking in Canada, the following describes a mixture of preventive and cessation techniques geared to adolescents.
Addiction risk increases with
Addiction risk decreases with
Because most smokers begin smoking before age 20 years, smoking is an adolescent health problem which has long term consequences. Youth may be less likely to experiment with and continue to use tobacco if they are more aware of the immediate risks of tobacco use not only to their health, but to their attractiveness. Health care providers will be effective in promoting long term behaviour change among adolescents if they employ stage-matched interventions and focus on the things that matter to youth. Set up an office system that identifies the smoking status of each youth.
This fact sheet was originally published as part of Guide Your Patients to a Smoke Free Future. Reprinted with permission of the Canadian Council on Tobacco Control, 170 Laurier Avenue West, Suite 1000, Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5V5. Telephone 613-567-3050, fax 613-567-2730, website http://www.cctc.ca
The National Clearinghouse on Tobacco and Health (NCTH), operated by the Canadian Council on Tobacco Control, is Canada’s most comprehensive professional library on the issue of tobacco and health. The NCTH’s website is Canada’s best tobacco and health information web site and considered one of the best in the world by the World Health Organization. Call 1-800-267-5234 for more information or visit the clearinghouse web site http://cctc.ca/ncth