Nicotine dependence, withdrawal symptoms, and adolescents' readiness to quit smoking

Nicotine Tob Res. 2001 May;3(2):151-5. doi: 10.1080/14622200110043068.


The purpose of this study was to characterize nicotine dependence and nicotine withdrawal symptoms among adolescent smokers and to investigate associations between these key factors and adolescents' readiness to quit smoking. A total of 5624 high school students participated in a school-based survey. Of 1111 adolescents who were current or former smokers, the following stage-of-change distribution for smoking cessation was observed: precontemplation, 52.5%; contemplation, 16.0%; preparation, 7.5%; action, 13.2%; and maintenance, 10.8%. Among current smokers, 18.1% were substantially dependent on nicotine, 45.2% had moderate dependence, and 36.7% had no dependence. Higher proportions of current smokers than successful quitters reported withdrawal symptoms with their most recent quit attempts. Precontemplators exhibited significantly higher mean nicotine dependence scores than did students in the contemplation or preparation stages (F(2,837) = 12.03; p < 0.0001). A similar trend was observed for withdrawal-symptom scores across the stages of change. The nicotine dependence and withdrawal-symptom scores were significantly correlated (r = 0.44, p < 0.001). Nicotine dependence and nicotine withdrawal appear to interfere with adolescents' abilities and readiness to quit smoking, suggesting a potential role for nicotine replacement therapy in the treatment of tobacco use and dependence among adolescents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology
  • Attitude*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nicotine / adverse effects*
  • Prevalence
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Smoking Cessation*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / etiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / epidemiology
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / prevention & control*


  • Nicotine