244365 Having an “urge” to smoke: Nicotine addiction from an adolescent perspective

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Joann Lee, DrPH, CHES , Office on Smoking and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA
Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, PhD , Division of Adolescent Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Research suggests that adolescents have a poor understanding of nicotine addiction, often underestimating the ease at which they can become addicted. Given that symptoms of nicotine dependence among adolescents often develop soon after smoking initiation and generally before the onset of daily smoking, it is critical to determine how adolescents define addiction. Using a mixed-methods approach, we investigated adolescents' definition of addicted smoker and addiction. Data were from a study of 372 northern California adolescents. Results indicate that the majority of adolescents characterized an addicted smoker as an individual with a high frequency and heavy amount of tobacco use: smokes everyday (92.5%), smokes one pack or more per day (76.7%), smokes anywhere (94.2%), and has been smoking for a few years or more (74.3%). Interview data indicate that while adolescents generally described addiction as having an “urge” or “need” to smoke, the process of addiction could not be described: “I'm not sure,” I don't really know anything about it,” and “I have no idea.” Our findings indicate that adolescents may not comprehend that they can experience symptoms of nicotine dependence with a lower frequency and amount of cigarette smoking compared to adults. Results have implications for adolescents' susceptibility to initiate cigarette smoking and their perceived risk and ease of cessation. These preliminary results suggest that youth smoking prevention programs should include a discussion of the process of nicotine addiction, including how quickly and from just a few cigarettes an adolescent can become addicted.

Learning Areas:
Advocacy for health and health education
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related education
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
At the end of the presentation, the participant will be able to: 1. Describe the rationale for studying adolescents’ conceptualization of nicotine addiction. 2. List three characteristics of an adolescent-driven definition of an addicted smoker. 3. Identify adolescents’ definitions of addiction that can be applied to improved youth-centered smoking prevention and cessation efforts.

Keywords: Smoking, Adolescent Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present, because I have considerable research experience in adolescent smoking and have the required educational training to engage in such research.
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.