Teenage Smoking Leads to Addiction Within Weeks
Teenagers who take "just a few draws" on a cigarette every other day can become addicted to nicotine in only a few weeks, according to a study published in this month's issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, the Boston Globe reports. Dr. Joseph DiFranza and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts asked 679 seventh-grade students about their smoking habits in a series of eight interviews over 36 months (Smith, Boston Globe, 4/15). The researchers developed a 10-point "Hooked on Nicotine Checklist" that included questions such as "Have you ever tried to quit [smoking] but couldn't?" and "Is it hard to keep from smoking in places where you are not supposed to, like school?" (DiFranza et al., Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, April 2002). The researchers found that teenagers who answered "yes" to at least one of the 10 questions had become addicted to nicotine and would "find it difficult" to quit smoking. In addition, the study found that teenagers who answered "yes" to at least one question were 29 times more likely to fail in efforts to quit smoking, 44 times more likely not to have quit smoking by the end of the study and 58 times more likely to smoke every day than those who answered "no" to the 10 questions.
Gregory Connolly, director of the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program, said that the study "demonstrates powerfully the importance" of tobacco prevention campaigns for teenagers. Connolly added that the state has developed television advertisements to "persuade youths that smoking translates into giving up control." He said, "The last thing a 13-year-old wants to think about is some tobacco company controlling their behavior, so we get them to rebel against a tobacco company instead of a teacher or a parent." DiFranza said that he hopes that magazines with large teenage readerships will publish his "Hooked on Nicotine Checklist" (Boston Globe, 4/15). The study is available online.