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Investigating College Student Cigarette Smoking Self-change

Institution: Veterans Medical Research Foundation
Investigator(s): Mark Myers, Ph.D.
Award Cycle: 2007 (Cycle 16) Grant #: 16IT-0208 Award: $138,580
Subject Area: Tobacco-Use Prevention and Cessation
Award Type: Inno Dev & Exp Awards (IDEAS)

Initial Award Abstract
Recent studies show that many college students smoke cigarettes. Although most youth start smoking during the middle adolescent years, one study found that 11% of college students had their first cigarette and 28% began smoking regularly at or after 19 years of age. The college years form a transition from adolescence to adulthood, and represent a period during which tobacco use and other health behaviors are still being learned. As such, college students engage in considerable experimentation with smoking and other health risk behaviors. Despite this evidence, relatively few studies have investigated college student cigarette smoking and surprisingly few studies have addressed smoking cessation in this population. As suggested by several authors, cigarette smoking prevention and treatment efforts aimed at college students may yield considerable benefits in reducing the health burden of tobacco addiction.

The long-term objectives of the proposed line of research are: 1) to increase our understanding of college student efforts to stop or limit the use of cigarettes; 2) to provide information to aid the design of effective programs to help college students quit or reduce smoking; and 3) to test and refine a theoretical model that explains how and why college students change their smoking.

Relatively few previous studies have investigated factors that influence increased or continued cigarette use for college students, and fewer still have examined efforts to stop or limit smoking. To address this gap in knowledge, we plan to develop questionnaires of college student cigarette use behavior change. Another goal of the study is to gather initial information describing how and why college students go about trying to stop smoking. Since a primary goal of the proposed study is to provide information for the design of college student smoking cessation programs, the current proposal is relevant to the TRDRP primary research area addressing Prevention and Cessation of Tobacco Use and Tobacco-Related Health Disparities in California’s Diverse Populations. In addition, this work is relevant to the research priority of increasing the effectiveness of cessation strategies for priority populations (which includes young adults).

The main goals of the proposed study are to 1) conduct focus groups with college students to learn about their experiences with quitting smoking and get their input regarding the content of questionnaires for measuring how and why they quit smoking; 2) to examine the usefulness and accuracy of these new questionnaires, and 3) to provide estimates of how often and for how long college students try to quit or cut down on their smoking. A secondary goal of the proposed study is to examine in a preliminary fashion variables that predict whether college students will try to quit smoking and variables that predict success once a student tries to stop smoking.

The proposed study consists of 2 phases. In phase 1 focus groups and interviews will be conducted with 60 18-24 year old college undergraduates who have tried to quit smoking, to generate and refine items for questionnaires related to smoking cessation efforts. In phase 2, 200 18-24 year old college undergraduates who smoke will complete the newly developed questionnaires for initial evaluation of their usefulness and accuracy. In addition, 150 18-24 year old college undergraduates who smoke will be recruited and interviewed 3 times, at 3-month intervals, over a period of 6-months. This part of the project will permit further evaluation of the questionnaires, provide estimates for how often college students try to stop or limit their smoking, and provide preliminary information regarding factors that influence attempts at stopping smoking.