Focusing on short-term effects may help prevent smoking in young people

Anti-smoking messages often focus on the long-term consequences, but focusing on the immediate negative effects of smoking and vaping may be a more effective approach to preventing smoking among young people.

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NEWBERRY COUNTY – Most smokers start early: According to the United States Office of the Surgeon General, nearly nine in ten adult smokers have first tried tobacco before the age of 18, and progressed to daily consumption almost always occurs before the age of 26.

For this reason, it is crucial that tobacco control campaigns reach adolescents and young adults. While anti-smoking messages often focus on long-term consequences like lung cancer and emphysema, a new study from researchers at the Annenberg School for Communication shows that emphasizing the immediate negative effects of smoking and vaping like disapproving friends or being a dislike of others – may be a more effective approach to preventing and reducing tobacco and nicotine use among young people.

“Anti-smoking campaigns often describe the visceral and long-term health consequences of tobacco use, such as laryngeal cancer or tooth loss,” explains the co-author and Ph.D. Annenberg. candidate Emma Jesch. “Our results suggest that messages aimed at young people should describe short-term consequences, many of which are social and sensory in nature, such as looking uncool or inhaling chemicals.”

Researchers conducted a three-year continuous survey of adolescents and young adults aged 13 to 26, measuring their belief in the potential short- and long-term consequences of cigarettes and e-cigarettes (commonly known as vapes), smoking or vaping intentions, and current use.

The results showed that young people who strongly anticipate short-term consequences – such as disapproval of their friends, not liking the taste, being a dump to others and developing headaches – had less intentions to use drugs. tobacco products and were less likely to consume it six months later, compared to those who strongly predicted long-term effects such as the development of wrinkles, cancer and infertility.

The study also found that the same types of consequences that may deter young people from smoking may also deter them from vaping. Concern for disapproval of friends was most strongly associated with intention not to use tobacco, indicating that anti-smoking messages focused on norms and social perceptions can be particularly compelling when addressed to a younger audience.

These results suggest that focusing on the immediate and tangible negative effects of tobacco use may be a particularly effective approach in discouraging young people from starting to smoke, as well as in persuading them to quit.

“Understanding what can prevent young people from using tobacco products in the first place is really important to completely reducing smoking and vaping rates,” says co-author and Ph.D. Annenberg. candidate Ava Kikut. “Plus, quitting smoking can actually reverse cell damage caused by tobacco use. So examining what can encourage young people to quit smoking can help reduce long-term health consequences. “

The study, “Comparing belief in short-term versus long-term consequences of smoking and vaping as predictors of non-use in a 3 year nationally representative survey study of US youth”, is co-authored by Jesch and Kikut, with Robert Hornik , Ph.D., Wilbur Schramm Emeritus Professor of Communication and Health Policy.

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