Online Program

Attitudes about Cigarette Experimentation, Addiction, and Regulations to Protect Children from Addiction

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Regina M. Shaefer, MPH, Julius B Richmond Center of Excellence, American Academy of Pediatrics, Elk Grove Village, IL
Mark A. Gottlieb, JD, at Northeastern Univ. School of Law, Public Health Advocacy Institute, Boston, MA
Susanne Tanski, MD, MPH, Cancer Risk Behaviors Group, Norris Cotton Cancer Center, The Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Lebanon, NH
Robert C. McMillen, PhD, Social Science Research Center, Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS
Jonathan Klein, MD, MPH, American Academy of Pediatrics, Elk Grove Village, IL
Background: With continued higher-than-ideal rates of teen smoking, many adults assume experimenting with smoking is a “natural” part of adolescence and will not lead to addiction. This study examines these assumptions and attitudes about protecting those who do experiment from becoming addicted.

Design/Methods: Using a nationally representative online survey in 2014, we asked whether they agreed that experimenting was part of growing up, addiction was possible even after smoking just a few cigarettes, and if government or tobacco companies should reduce the amount of nicotine in cigarettes so kids who experiment don’t become addicted. Chi-square analyses compared responses across smoking status, children in home, age, race, and education.

Results: 1519 of 2,699 eligible respondents (57%) completed surveys. Although most adults recognized the harms of experimentation, 35.6% agreed that experimentation with cigarettes is a part of growing up and 20.8% did not believe that people can become addicted after only a few cigarettes. Slightly more than half (53.8%) of adults believed that government should reduce the amount of nicotine in cigarettes to prevent addiction, while two-thirds (65.1%) believe that tobacco companies should do so. Recognition of the harms of experimentation was higher among nonsmokers, parents, older adults, and African Americans. Support for reducing nicotine did not tend to differ by demographic group.

Conclusion: Most adults don’t consider experimentation part of growing up and believe addiction does happen after smoking just a few cigarettes. There is consistent support for reducing the amount of nicotine in cigarettes to protect adolescent experimenters. These findings provide opportunities for tobacco control advocates to change social norms about experimentation and risks for addiction in adolescence through education and policy efforts. Advocates should call for expanded research on reducing nicotine content in cigarettes and addiction potential to protect those teens that do choose to experiment with smoking.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Discuss how the general public's attitudes towards youth experimentation, risk for addiction through smoking experimentation, and support for regulations to reduce the risk of youth addiction

Keyword(s): Tobacco Control, Adolescents

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I direct the Division of Tobacco Control at the American Academy of Pediatrics. Through this role I lead research, policy, advocacy, education, and clinical practice efforts to reduce tobacco use, reduce exposure to secondhand smoke, and increase cessation.
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.