219024 How to define a “smoker”: College student attitudes and related smoking characteristics

Monday, November 8, 2010 : 5:38 PM - 5:55 PM

Carla Berg, PhD , Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Less than half of college students who have smoked in the past month identify themselves as smokers. Thus, we examined (1) how college students define the term “smoker”; and (2) how this definition is impacts motivation and confidence in quitting among college students. we conducted 12 focus groups among 73 college smokers drawn from survey participants at two Midwestern colleges (two-year technical college, four-year university). Each group was homogenous in gender and school. Participants described a “smoker” in terms of (1) smoking frequency; (2) purchasing cigarettes, such that “smokers” buy cigarettes; (3) contextual factors, such that smoking alone indicates being a smoker rather than smoking at parties; (4) addictive symptoms; (5) ability to quit smoking; (6) whether smoking is habitual; and (7) time since smoking initiation. These beliefs had implications on intent, motivation, and confidence to quit smoking. A large proportion indicated high confidence in quitting but did not believe that they were “smokers” and thus, did not need to quit. Several participants who did not identify as smokers reported limiting their smoking as a relevant goal rather than cessation. Alternatively, those who considered themselves to be smokers noted cessation barriers, including drinking alcohol, roommates or partners that smoked, and emotional triggers (e.g., stress, boredom). The majority had not attempted to quit smoking, and thus, relied on secondhand information regarding the success or side effects of different cessation resources. Thus, we must differentially address smoking patterns among college students and how different groups may perceive the need to “quit smoking.”

Learning Areas:
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related education
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences
Systems thinking models (conceptual and theoretical models), applications related to public health

Learning Objectives:
1. To examine factors related to college students' conceptualization of a "smoker.: 2. To discuss factors affected by different definitions of "smoker" including intent, motivation, and confidence to quit smoking.

Keywords: Tobacco Control, Youth

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the PI for the grant supporting this research, I was the lead of all aspects of the research, I conducted the analyses, and I wrote the majority of the resulting manuscript.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

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