According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of five teenagers smoke cigarettes, with more than 3,000 young people becoming regular smokers every day. Among these individuals, 82% of 11 to 19 year olds who smoke think about quitting.
While teens may be aware that smoking is harmful to their health, they are also heavily influenced by what they hear from TV shows, movies and of course, their friends. As a result, teens are more likely than adults to believe common myths about smoking, which can deter them from successfully quitting. Whether these myths stem from word-of-mouth among peers or propaganda in the media, ensuring that teens are aware of these untruths is key in helping them to successfully achieve smoking cessation.
Tobacco cessation and reduction
Project CONNECT, a tobacco cessation and reduction program developed specifically for adolescents by Caron Treatment Centers, a nationally recognized non-profit provider of alcohol and drug addiction treatment founded in 1957,has outlined five common misconceptions about tobacco that often prevent teens from achieving their smoking cessation goals:
Smoking can help to relieve stress. Many teenagers who smoke claim to do so as a way to cope with stress. However, these adolescents would be surprised to learn that smoking does not decrease stress levels. In fact, according to a review of psychological studies featured in the American Psychological Association’s American Psychologist, nicotine has been shown to actually intensify stress among smokers.
“Light smoking” is less dangerous. A common perception among teens is that smoking in moderation is okay and less harmful to their health compared to frequent smoking. However, there is no safe level of tobacco consumption and even teens that only smoke a few cigarettes per day run the risk of developing smoke related cancer and other related diseases.
Young people don’t need to worry about the health effects of smoking. For many adolescents, smoking-related diseases and complications are perceived as something that only happens to older, long-term smokers. Often teens don’t realize that smoking actually causes many short-term health affects.
Social smokers cannot get addicted. Most teens that begin smoking do so because they “just wanted to try it” or want to fit in socially, and do not plan on making a habit of it. However, according to the American Cancer Society, anyone who starts smoking can become addicted to nicotine, and may have difficulty quitting over the long-term.
Teens can quit smoking on their own. Many teens believe that quitting tobacco is easy and does not require professional assistance. However, according to the Youth Tobacco Cessation Collaborative, 3 out of every 4 adolescent smokers that have tried to quit smoking and have failed. This is because adolescents lack the awareness about strategies and resources needed to successfully quit.
“In our experience with Project CONNECT, we’ve found that most addicted teenagers and adolescents are motivated to quit, but experience multiple barriers to ultimate success due to the unfounded information and false truths that surround them,” said Mylene Krzanowski, executive director of Student Assistance Services at Caron Treatment Centers. “The actual commitment to smoking cessation is a process that can often be overwhelming for adolescents who try to alone. In order to keep teenagers focused on their cessation goals, it is crucial that parents and school administrators rely on evidence-based cessation programs that address the unique needs and concerns of this age group.”
Project CONNECT was developed through the review of numerous adolescent tobacco cessation programs, research on behavior change theory and by utilizing prevention and intervention models intended to address other risk behaviors. The development of this program was also guided by feedback from adolescent cessation group facilitators and cessation program participants. It was designed to motivate participants to not only participate in the program, but to ultimately make more positive choices, including changing their tobacco use, attitudes, and behaviors.