Objective: To review current data on the tobacco epidemic in adolescents that impact treatment decisions.
Method: Epidemiological and pharmacological data, risk factors, characteristics of nicotine use in adolescents, and treatment intervention reports from the literature are discussed.
Results: Of students in grades 9 to 12, 42.7% have used tobacco; 75% of teenage smokers will smoke as adults. Environmental and biological factors influence adolescent smoking, including sociodevelopmental aspects of adolescence, psychiatric history, genetic background, ethnic and gender characteristics, drug effects, and regulatory factors. Criteria for nicotine dependence are currently based on the experience with adult smokers. Overall, smoking cessation treatment for adolescents has been disappointing because of low participation, high attrition, and low quit rates.
Conclusion: Characterization of nicotine dependence and further assessment of the safety and efficacy of pharmacological treatment interventions in adolescents are needed given the formidable challenge of the tobacco epidemic in adolescents.