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Adults important in reducing tobacco use among young people

05.05.2009 - (idw) Schwedischer Forschungsrat - The Swedish Research Council

A clear commitment from adults against the use of tobacco is expected by their children as they grow up, and it can prevent teenagers from starting to smoke or use snuff. This is shown in current research from Umeå University in Sweden. In 1993 a program called Tobacco-Free Duo was started in collaboration between the Country Council of Västerbotten County and the schools in the county's municipalities. The target group was young people between 13 and 15 years of age, and the program is still going on. A central component of the program was to include adults in the task of supporting adolescents in saying no to tobacco.

In her dissertation, Maria Nilsson evaluates the effects of the program and studies the attitudes of young people to how adults, and especially parents, should approach the use of tobacco among their children.

Both boys' and girls' smoking declined during the seven-year evaluation period for Tobacco-Free Duo, whereas no change was observed at the national level. Using a multifaceted interventional model that includes tobacco-free duos consisting of one adult and one teenager, it is possible to bring down the use of tobacco among young people. An unexpected bonus effect of the program was reported. One adult in four who supported a young participant Tobacco-Free Duo was a tobacco user who stopped using tobacco in order to be able to participate. The Tobacco-Free Duo intervention has proven to be viable in the municipalities throughout the years. The long-term design of the program proved to be important in that the major effects were shown only after a few years of work.

In an interview study, 15-year-old smokers respond that they experience smoking as a way to gain control of their feelings and their situation during their teens. They expect grown-ups to intervene against their smoking. They describe close relationships with adults who care for them as a reason for smoking less or trying to quit smoking.

In a national questionnaire study with data from three decades, teenagers are becoming more receptive of parental intervention against their children's smoking. Young people clearly support this, whether they themselves smoke or not. They prefer to have parents get involved by persuading their children not to smoke, by not smoking themselves, and by not permitting their children to smoke at home. The results contradict the notion that young people ignore or even have negative perceptions of their parents' attempts to counteract the use of tobacco.

"Children expect adults to work against tobacco. They say this is important and that grown-ups can make a difference by showing a clear and positive commitment," says Maria Nilsson.

Having a shared and consistent norm against tobacco from both schools and parents with a supportive approach can have a preventive function regarding tobacco use among young people.

Maria Nilsson's dissertation is titled: Promoting health in adolescents: preventing the use of tobacco.
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