There is help available for adults struggling to stop smoking. But adolescents who want to quit may get less support.
“Unfortunately we have precious little research data on effective treatments for adolescents,” says Michael Fiore, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention at the University of Wisconsin Medical School in Madison.
What is known, however, is that kids need help.
“Adolescents are as addicted to nicotine as adults. There is a misconception that they are all casual smokers and can quit at anytime they want, but the data don’t support that. In fact, they suggest the opposite,” Dr. Fiore says.
The US Public Health Service released “Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: A Clinical Practice Guideline,” which outlines clinical treatments for tobacco dependence in adults, including options for nicotine replacement therapy and behavioral counseling. The guide was authored by the Tobacco Use and Dependence Guideline Panel, a group of researchers from agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Cancer Institute, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
But there is no such guide for teenagers, who may be as dependent on nicotine as adults are. By age 17, two thirds of smokers regret having started smoking, and one half have tried to quit and failed. Nearly 40% are interested in some form of treatment for dependence on cigarettes.
“There is a mythology that teen smokers do not want to try to stop,” says Richard Hurt, MD, professor of medicine and director of the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center in Rochester, Minnesota. “It’s not true. We just haven’t figured out how to help them yet.”
Smoking, the most preventable cause of illness and death in the United States, often begins during adolescence. Among adults who have ever smoked, more than 90% tried their first cigarette and 77% became daily smokers before age 20.
Article by: Anne Jacobson, Medical Writer