Aim: Smoking is a major health hazard in young adults. Reducing smoking is the only well established effective primary prevention of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. We undertook a prospective cross sectional study to determine the prevalence of respiratory symptoms, smoking behaviour and willingness to participate in a smoking cessation program in Swiss conscripts.
Methods: Conscripts completed a standardized questionnaire on respiratory symptoms, asthma and smoking behaviour and underwent spirometry measurement.
Results: 2604 conscripts were included. 1252 (48%) were current smokers, 144 (6%) were former smokers, 111 (4%) were recent beginners or low intensity smokers and 1097 (42%) were never smokers. Respiratory symptoms were significantly higher in smokers compared to never smokers (wheezing 16% vs. 7%, wheezing without cold 9% vs. 4%, exercise dyspnoea 15% vs. 10%, regular cough 35% vs. 10% and regular phlegm 15% vs. 2%). The mean score of the Fagerstrom Test for Nicotine Dependency (FTND) was 2.6 (+/-2.1). According to the transtheoretical model of stage of change 50% were in the precontemplation, 34% in the contemplation, 5% in the preparation, 5% in the action and 6% in the maintenance stage. Amongst the current smokers 33% were willing to participate in a smoking cessation program. Those willing to participate in a smoking cessation program included 17% precontemplators and 53% contemplators.
Conclusion: There is a high prevalence of respiratory symptoms in young current smokers. The Fagerstrom Test for Nicotine Dependence score in conscripts is low thus favouring a potentially successful outcome of a smoking cessation intervention. Using motivational stages to tailor smoking cessation aids might preclude adequate interventions in individuals belonging to the precontemplation stage.