Young adult smokers: are they different?
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OBJECTIVE: To compare smoking-cessation interest and behaviors in younger and older smokers to develop better smoking-cessation strategies for younger smokers. STUDY DESIGN: Mail survey with phone follow-up of age-stratified members of a large Midwestern health plan to identify current and former smokers, followed by a second follow-up survey of this subgroup 12 months later. METHODS: The follow-up survey asked about change in smoking status, quit attempts, interest in quitting, and experience with various aids to quitting. Analyses compared adults age 18-24 years with adults age 25-65 years. RESULTS: Follow-up surveys were completed by 66.5% of subjects. Young adults smoked at much higher rates than older adults (24.5% vs 17.1%), but were less likely to smoke daily or to smoke as many cigarettes. Young adults were as likely to be interested in quitting and more likely to report a quit attempt in the past year (60.6% vs 49.6%; P = .009), but these attempts were much more likely to be unaided (51.2% vs 33.7%; P = .0003). They also were more likely to report decreasing smoking in response to new restrictions on smoking in restaurants and bars (37.2 % vs 24.7%; P = .001). CONCLUSIONS: Higher rates of smoking among young adults don't reflect less interest in quitting, fewer quit attempts, or less success in quitting compared with older adults. However, their reports of receiving or using much less help in quitting suggest that health plans and clinicians might be able to increase this group's cessation with more active support.