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Physicians can help curb teen smoking

Physicians who talk with teenage patients about the dangers of smoking can have a significant influence on their attitudes about tobacco use, according to a study in the June issue of Pediatrics. Adolescents whose doctors broach the subject become more knowledgeable about the ill health effects of smoking. Smokers who have such conversations with doctors are less inclined to see themselves still smoking after five years and are more likely to plan to try to quit within six months. Even so, about 57% of surveyed teenagers said their doctors had never offered advice on tobacco use, the study said. "Our results showed that less than half of the students in our study had conversations with their physicians about smoking, and that is really a concern," said Leslie A. Robinson, PhD, a study co-author, associate professor and director of clinical training in the department of psychology at the University of Memphis in Tennessee. "We're hoping [the study] will really encourage more pediatricians to talk with patients about smoking." Researchers evaluated surveys from 5,154 11th graders in Memphis-area high schools. Fifty-four percent of students had never smoked. Of the 681 students who were smokers at the time of the survey, 53% said they had at least one cigarette a day. Both smokers and nonsmokers whose doctors had addressed the topic were less likely to see smoking as beneficial to their social status. The study shows that physicians have an impact on adolescents' smoking behaviors, said Ashley Hum, lead study author and clinical psychology doctoral student at the university. Many doctors are reluctant to talk with teenagers about such issues. "They don't think it would make a difference," she said. Previous studies have said physicians feel that adolescents won't be honest with them or aren't mature enough to understand the consequences of smoking. Physicians also are discouraged by poor success rates of public health interventions aimed at reducing teenagers' tobacco use, Hum said. Several factors may influence a teenager's decision to smoke, including peer pressure, rebelliousness, tobacco exposure at home and the misconception that smoking helps control weight gain, Robinson said. "Developmentally, they're at a more difficult period," Robinson said. "Teenagers tend to see consequences as far removed in time. When they think about the dangers for themselves, they see it as less problematic." If more physicians talk with adolescents about smoking, fewer young people will be tempted to take up the habit and more teenage smokers will try to quit earlier, she said. The full and original article can be found at:
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