Tobacco use patterns and attitudes among teens being seen for routine primary care

Am J Health Promot. 2003 Mar-Apr;17(4):231-9. doi: 10.4278/0890-1171-17.4.231.


Purpose: To describe the tobacco-related attitudes, behaviors, and needs of smoking and nonsmoking teens being seen for routine pediatric care and to identify predictors of tobacco use.

Design: Cross-sectional survey of adolescent primary care patients who completed self-administered questionnaires in medical office waiting rooms while waiting for routine care visits.

Setting: A group-practice HMO in the Pacific Northwest.

Subjects: A sample of 2526 teenagers, ages 14 to 17, who consented to receive health promotion interventions as a part of a randomized trial in seven pediatric and family practice offices.

Measures: A 38-item questionnaire assessed tobacco use history, attitudes, quit attempts, and stage of acquisition or cessation along with gender, age, race/ethnicity, body mass index, educational plans, frequency of exercise, attempts to lose weight, and depressed mood.

Results: Sixty-seven percent of teens approached (2526 of 3747) consented to complete a questionnaire and receive tobacco- or diet-related interventions as a part of their medical visit. About 23% of teen patients reported smoking at least one cigarette in the last month, although only 14% described themselves as current "smokers." Most current smokers (84%) smoked at least 20 days in the last month. Logistic regression predictors of smoking included older age, Native American ethnicity, lower educational aspirations, lower body mass index, smoking among half or more friends, smokers at home, and a positive depression screen. Among ever-regular smokers, most were in the action (28%), preparation (21%), or contemplation (22%) readiness to quit smoking stages, and 77% of current smokers had made one or more serious quit attempts in the last year.

Conclusions: Most teens in these medical facilities consented to receive tobacco and diet interventions, and most self-described current smokers were contemplating or preparing to quit. Medical visits provide attractive opportunities for tobacco intervention, but messages should be tailored based on the patient's tobacco status and stage of acquisition or cessation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Population Surveillance
  • Prevalence
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / epidemiology*
  • United States / epidemiology