The presence and stability of nicotine dependence symptoms among adolescents after the implementation of a smoking prevention program

Tob Induc Dis. 2019 Feb 4;17:08. doi: 10.18332/tid/100556. eCollection 2019.


Introduction: Symptoms of nicotine dependence among adolescents occur at an early stage in smoking onset and can be present even with low exposure to cigarettes. We aim to examine the early occurrence of symptoms of nicotine dependence and how they predict later smoking behavior.

Methods: Participants were ninety-four currently smoking 9th-graders attending high school in Targu Mures, Romania. They were followed for 6 months with two assessment points: baseline, and follow-up at 6 months. We assessed the following: 1) the number of smoked cigarettes in the last 30 days, 7 days, and 24 hours using the Minnesota Smoking Index; 2) vulnerability to addiction manifested in cessation difficulties, using the 9-item version of the Hooked On Nicotine Checklist (HONC), 3) loss of autonomy using the endorsement of at least one HONC item, and 4) dependence, using the modified Fagerström Tolerance Questionnaire (mFTQ). We performed statistical analysis with SPSS version 19, using paired-sample t-tests for comparing the differences between baseline and follow-up data. We also conducted linear regression analysis to demonstrate the predictive role of the assessed variables, such as the scores of the mFTQ and the HONC in maintaining smoking and reported smoking status.

Results: Regression models indicated that baseline-measures for symptoms of dependence (β=0.64, p<0.001), vulnerability to addiction (β=0.47, p<0.001), and loss of autonomy (β=0.34, p<0.001) regarding smoking cessation were significant predictors of smoking, explaining 41.7% of the variability of the reported increase in cigarette consumption. At follow-up at 6-months, the three variables were responsible for 14.9% for the variance in cigarette consumption (R2=0.14, F(1,92)=16.05, p<0.01).

Conclusions: Nicotine dependence at baseline and at follow-up show significant differences in the control group while in the intervention group the scores remained stable. The findings suggest that participation in the Romanian version of ASPIRE was protective against progression towards nicotine addiction.

Keywords: addiction vulnerability; nicotine dependence; school-based smoking prevention; smoking adolescent.