Ambivalence and uncertainty: experiences of and attitudes towards addiction and smoking cessation in the mid-to-late teens

Health Educ Res. 2006 Apr;21(2):181-91. doi: 10.1093/her/cyh054. Epub 2005 Aug 17.


The late teens is an important transitional period as adolescents move into new social worlds which support or challenge their smoking. This paper draws on research with 99 Scottish 16- to 19-year olds which explored their understanding of their smoking and attitudes towards quitting and cessation support. The study involved qualitative interviews mostly with friendship pairs. Interviewees also completed a brief smoking questionnaire. Most regarded themselves as smokers but few thought they were addicted. Many were interested in quitting but this was not a priority. Perceived barriers to quitting related primarily to habitual and social aspects of dependence including friends' smoking, the smoking culture at work or college, stress and boredom. Few were interested in nicotine replacement therapy or cessation services, which they felt belonged to the world of older addicted smokers. The most effective quitting strategy was thought to be will-power. Traditional cessation services are therefore in their current form unlikely to appeal to older adolescents. Services aimed at this age group need to be grounded in their understandings of smoking and the social factors which support smoking. Young smokers should also be helped to understand how support may increase quitting success and how encourage quitting before smoking becomes entrenched in their daily routines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder*
  • United Kingdom