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New Study Shows Why Teen Anti-Smoking Programs Like "Just Say No" - Just Don't Work

posted 10:24 PM EST, Wed March 19, 2008
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New Study Shows Why Teen Anti-Smoking Programs Like "Just Say No" - Just Don't Work © Photo: Hamed Masouimi

Teens aren't getting bullied into smoking - young to middle aged teens astonishingly still believe they won't get addicted.

Anti-smoking campaigns targeting teens have had limited success, and according to researchers from the Center for Health Research and Oncology (CHeRP), of Newcastle University Australia, that's because a lot of them are based on flawed information about what keeps teens from smoking.

Using an informational review technique, the research team combed through the data of 78 international studies, and has assembled a more comprehensive and evidence based picture of the forces that influence and discourage teens from smoking.

Firstly, they say, campaigns of the "just say no" variety presume that bullying or teasing towards smoking plays a role on influencing smoking initiation. And while the study authors conclude that peer pressure does play an important role, they say that teens very rarely report feeling pressured to try cigarettes, and rather teens do so when trying to fit in with a group. Just Say No - sounds catchy, but does not effectively influence behaviors; and future campaigns should instead attempt to change teen modeling behaviors.

Additionally, the research data, and also interview sessions with teens, shows that tougher laws regulating the sale of tobacco products to minors has little effect on smoking rates. Teens, they say, can find ways to circumnavigate these restrictions with relative ease, and thus enforcement cannot be regarded as a viable method for reducing teen smoking rates.

Finally, the researchers report that disturbingly, mid-teens who start smoking view addiction has something that happens to older people, and is not something they really need to worry about. Older teens tend to realize that they can get, or are already, addicted, but by this point it is too late.

CHeRP Researcher, Flora Tzelpis, hopes that the study results will be used to, "help shape future education programs and other government efforts designed to tackle the substantial future health problems arising from adolescent smoking."

The full study can be read in the journal – "Substance Use and Misuse".

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