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Peers influence can reduce tobacco use among younger smokers

A U.S. study has found that community-based interventions to help people quit smoking have the potential to more than double the success rate. (Photograph: Stas Walenga/Shutterstock)
Dental Tribune International

Dental Tribune International

Mon. 13. November 2017


OAKLAND, Calif., U.S.: Participating in a brief intervention delivered by their peers in community settings can help reduce smoking among youth and young adults, a new study has concluded. The research also showed that the most effective tools in the intervention were informational conversations about the consequences of smoking, such as poor oral health, and a quit kit of behavior replacement activities.

Nearly 30 high school and college students known as the “Street Team” provided interventions of 5 to 10 minutes in duration. They included one-on-one education, motivational messages, quit kits and referrals to quit-smoking resources. Team members were recruited and trained by the Sacramento Taking Action Against Nicotine Dependence (STAND) project of Breathe California Sacramento Region, which also developed the outreach protocol.

Over a four-year period, the team delivered the intervention to 279 younger smokers at a booth set up at about 30 street fairs, concerts, mall activities and other community events in the Sacramento region. Follow-up calls were made to 76 participants three times within six months to collect information and determine whether the intervention had worked.

Results showed that the quit rate for people who participated in the intervention was 12.5 percent at six months, which is very promising, according to senior author Dr. Elisa Tong from the University of California, Davis, given that only about 5 percent of smokers are typically able to quit on their own.

“Almost all smokers first tried using tobacco by age 26. If we can find ways to encourage them to stop smoking before their addictive behaviors become hard wired, we have a much better chance of getting ahead of the enticing methods tobacco companies constantly devise to reinforce lifelong use of their products,” said Tong.

The majority of participants (70 percent) reported that the quit kit of giveaways packaged in a water bottle aided their cessation efforts, especially tobacco alternatives that they could place in their mouths or hold in their hands, such as gum, trail mix, toothpicks, honey sticks and stress balls. Discussions with the Street Team were also helpful, especially those focused on quit-smoking strategies, the costs of smoking and the health harms of tobacco.

“Tobacco-cessation efforts aimed at newer smokers often don’t work, likely because they are based on what works for longer-term smokers versus younger smokers who identify as social smokers,” said study co-author Kimberly Bankston-Lee, Senior Program Director of STAND.

The researchers will next test the effectiveness of the intervention at specific sites, like community college campuses, utilizing delivery teams from those sites as well. “Our goals are to find the most powerful ways to engage and empower Sacramento youth to live tobacco-free lives, and then share those tools with the rest of California and the U.S.,” Tong said.

The study, titled “A community-based ‘street team’ tobacco cessation intervention by and for youth and young adults,” was published online on Oct. 25 in the Journal of Community Health ahead of print.

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