Despite smoking's documented health risks, teens may be more worried about its damage to their wallets, a new study suggests.

High school students surveyed in the study were most likely to say they wanted to quit smoking to save money, according to Lindsey Turner, Ph.D., and Robin Mermelstein, Ph.D., of the University of Illinois at Chicago. Their study appears in the American Journal of Health Behavior.

Health concerns and their parents' wishes that the teens would quit smoking were the next most common reasons given for wanting to quit.

"Adolescents report a variety of reasons for wanting to quit, but health, image and financial considerations are the most common," Turner says.

Girls seem to be more concerned with smoking's effects on their image and looks, such as nicotine stains on fingers and teeth. Boys, on the other hand, say they would like to quit smoking to improve their athletic performance.

The researchers discovered, however, that the most common reasons given for wanting to quit weren't always the reasons that seemed to help teens kick the habit.

Students who gave up their cigarettes were more likely to have said earlier that they didn't enjoy smoking as much as they thought they would, or that their friends wanted them to quit. Teens who were highly motivated to quit smoking at the beginning of the program were also among the successful quitters.

"Adolescents who have friends who want them to quit are likely to associate with adolescents who do not themselves smoke and do not approve of smoking, and this peer environment may in itself help to promote cessation," Turner explains.

The researchers surveyed 351 Illinois students from 29 Chicago metropolitan and Springfield area schools enrolled in a school-based smoking cessation program. More than 60 percent of the students had smoked at least one cigarette per day in the week before they were surveyed.

Turner and Mermelstein found that nonwhite students were more motivated than white students to quit smoking at the beginning of the program. White students were more likely than nonwhite students to say money concerns and parents' and friends' promptings were motivating factors to give up the habit.

The Turner and Mermelstein study was supported by the American Lung Association of Illinois and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Health Behavior News Service: (202) 387-2829 or hbns.

Center for the Advancement of Health
Contact: Ira R. Allen
Vice President of Public Affairs

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