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Exploring tobacco cessation services on CA college campuses

Institution: Public Health Institute
Investigator(s): Dianne Barker, M.H.S.
Award Cycle: 2001 (Cycle 10) Grant #: 10IT-0265 Award: $81,995
Subject Area: Tobacco-Use Prevention and Cessation
Award Type: Inno Dev & Exp Awards (IDEAS)

Initial Award Abstract
The health impact from smoking is one of the most serious and costly public health challenges in the U.S. Even though we have begun to see decreases in the adult smoking rate, we have not seen the same decreases in the young adult population. In fact, smoking rates for college students have actually increased. Even the enactment of stringent federal, state and tobacco control regulation, including smoking restrictions banning smoking in all public buildings, has failed to curb this trend.

The years of college life -- tied generally to the 18-21 year-old age-group -- represent a unique experience in the life of most students, and brings with it a new set of opportunities for effectively aiding in student smoking cessation. College campuses should be fertile ground for both policy and individual interventions designed to identify smoking students who want to quit smoking, and to help them achieve success. However, little is known about college students' knowledge, choice and preferences for smoking cessation services. We also have limited information on what tobacco control interventions are available on campus, and what barriers prevent colleges from implementing comprehensive tobacco control interventions.

The proposed study will begin to address these gaps in our knowledge, using a two-pronged approach. We will conduct group discussions with college students by telephone, and also interview college administrators. College administrators will include student health center directors, tobacco control enforcement administrators, and administrators responsible for budgeting student programs and services. As this is an exploratory study, sample sizes will be small. We plan to conduct 6 focus group discussion with students, some of whom will be daily smokers or near daily smokers, while others will be occasional smokers. Thirty schools will participate in the college administrator study, with up to three administrators per school. From these student discussions and administrator interviews, we will analyze common themes on student’s knowledge and attitudes toward cessation services, and opportunities and barriers to refitting smoking cessation programs to the specific preferences of the college student smokers.

Information gained from this exploratory study will guide two larger studies, one focusing on developing a pilot intervention to help college students in California quit smoking, and the other being a nationwide study of youth and young adults to understand their quitting behavior. Findings from the proposed study will be disseminated not only to researchers, but college administrators and others interested in tobacco cessation interventions on college campuses. Both a policy brief and journal article will be prepared, and avenues to dialogue with college administrators will be explored. Ultimately, we anticipate that this work will contribute to the reduction in smoking by college students in California.