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Test of an internet virtual world for teen smoking cessation

Institution: San Diego State University Research Foundation
Investigator(s): Susan Woodruff, Ph.D. James Crittenden,
Award Cycle: 2002 (Cycle 11) Grant #: 11HT-3301H Award: $826,206
Subject Area: Tobacco-Use Prevention and Cessation
Award Type: Full SARA

Initial Award Abstract
Smoking among children and adolescents has tremendous public health importance. Onset and development of smoking occurs primarily in adolescence, and because tobacco is highly addictive, regular use in adolescence develops into nicotine dependency. Smoking among adolescents is likely to continue into the adult years, increasing the risk of numerous long-term negative health consequences. However, after three decades of efforts to prevent smoking among children, large numbers of young people continue to smoke.

Unfortunately, adolescent smokers are difficult to recruit and retain in smoking cessation studies. Even more discouraging, programs that have been effective with adults, when tried with adolescents in school clinics and classrooms, have not shown much promise. Many believe that advances in health promotion among young people, including motivating interest in smoking cessation, will focus on appropriate use of new technologies such as computers.

The primary goal of this 3-year study is to test an innovative approach to smoking cessation that might be particularly attractive to teen smokers. The proposed intervention will take place in the context of a novel Internet technology--a virtual world chat room--while also using a state-of-the-art counseling approach, motivational interviewing conducted by a smoking cessation facilitator. The approach is likely to have a great deal of appeal to teens that typically enjoy using the Internet and may especially like the animated interaction available in a virtual world chat-room format. In addition, teens may find the motivational interviewing approach much less offensive than more traditional behavior-change counseling for “rebellious” behaviors such as smoking. The chat room approach also circumvents the expense and logistical problems (e.g., classroom time, teacher training) involved in delivering a school-based classroom program. This innovative combination of virtual world chat room technology with motivational counseling for behavior change showed promising results in our pilot study, but needs to be more strictly evaluated.

Participants will be 330 teen smokers recruited from 12 high schools. Participants will use school computer resources to access the Internet chat room. Following an introduction to the chat room, participants will interact in seven 1-hour chat sessions over a 2-month period addressing topics shown to be effective and unique to the cessation experience of adolescents. The effectiveness of the chat room will be evaluated using responses to on-line tobacco use surveys. Participants’ survey responses will be compared to two other groups of participants: (1) those who access several smoking cessation educational web sites, and (2) those who only complete surveys. The three groups will be compared in terms of changes in their attitudes and quitting behavior. If the chat room approach is found to be effective, the academic and school partners will develop a plan to make the program available to more schools.

Smoking and Quitting History Correlates of Readiness to quit in Multi-ethnic Adolescents
Periodical: American Journal of Health Behavior Index Medicus:
Authors: Woodruff SI, Lee, J, & Conway TL ART
Yr: 0 Vol: Nbr: Abs: Pg: