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Young Adults Seldom Try Proven Methods to Kick the Butt

Young adults may be serious about wanting to kick the butt, but the seldom turn to tried and tested methods that could help them quit smoking.

The news comes from public health researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who conducted study on young adults' smoking habits.

They found that though people within the age group of 18 to 24 were highly motivated to quit, they are much less likely to use certain proven treatments to help them quit smoking when compared to adult smokers.

The study was carried out by a group of researchers led by Susan Curry, director of the UIC Institute for Health Research and Policy.

They used data from the 2005 National Health Interview Survey, the researchers compared young adult smokers (ages 18 to 24) to older smokers (ages 25 and older).

The researchers noted that though approximately 70 percent in both age groups said they wanted to completely quit smoking, but only 4 percent to 5 percent of smokers in both age groups use any evidence-based behavioural treatment.

As few as 1 percent reported using specific types of behavioural treatment such as group classes, quit lines or internet programs.

According to researchers, only 17 percent of young adults used pharmacotherapy -- approved drugs such as nicotine gum, nicotine patches or bupropion -- in their most recent quit attempt. Among adult smokers, 32 percent reported using pharmacotherapy.

Smokers in both age groups reported support from friends and family as the most common form of stop-smoking treatment.

"Receiving advice from health care providers, having higher educational attainment, and having health insurance that might cover the cost of treatment are associated with using proven treatments," Curry said.

"However, young adults are less likely to have health insurance, less likely to go to the doctor, and when they do go to the doctor they are much less likely to be asked about their smoking and to be advised to quit," she added.

Other studies have shown that younger smokers tend to have many misconceptions about treatment. For example, young smokers incorrectly believe that nicotine replacement therapy is dangerous or that nicotine causes cancer.

Curry suggests it may be necessary to correct misconceptions about treatment and to take advantage of missed opportunities during health care visits to address smoking and promote treatment.

"We don't know from this study whether the issue is lack of interest in treatment, lack of awareness of treatment, or lack of treatments that appeal to young adult smokers. There's definitely room for more research to understand how we might spur demand for treatment among young adult smokers," Curry said.

The research is published online and will appear in the August issue of the American Journal of Public Health.


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