Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sue Scheff: Can Internet Advocacy Help Teen Quit Smoking?

Source: BodyMojo

Can Internet Advocacy Help Teens Quit Smoking?

By Teen Contributor

By Aseem Mehta

Although the risks are well documented, and teens are more aware of the risks of smoking, lighting up continues to be a major problem among people my age. There is no doubt that health classes, advocacy campaigns like TRUTH, and, of course, common knowledge, have made the negative impact of smoking well-known to older teens like me, those in high school and college.

Yet somehow, we don’t seem to be getting the message: Young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 have the highest rates of smoking compared to any other age group, but they have among the lowest rates of quitting. With conventional methods of awareness and treatment clearly failing to impact teenage decisions with regards to smoking, it is clear that a new approach is necessary.

That is why I’m enthralled by a new research study commissioned by the National Cancer Institute aimed at increasing demand for Internet based smoking treatment, specifically for individuals in my age group. The $2.9 million study is a new approach to an old problem, but one that is dynamic and innovative. It seeks to harness the connective networking power of outlets like Facebook and Twitter, with the interactive components of YouTube. This new proposal for online media announcements and treatments for teens is important. The result seems to be promising: a new tool which teens can relate to and better comprehend to find their way out of a sticky situation: nicotine addiction.

Psychologist Robin Mermelstein, on of the researchers, says, “Even though many young adults think about quitting and actually want to stop smoking, they tend not to use what we know works — evidence-based approaches to quitting.” Thus, making such information easily accessible and user-friendly for young adults to tap into is a mandate, and one that hopefully this new project will fulfill. However, it is not enough to just make the site and let it sit on the web.
The research teams collaborating on the project need to develop a way to actively recruit young adult smokers and show them a positive message about kicking the habit, and encourage them to stick with it.

Quitting smoking is a difficult task. Just look at President Obama, who promised his family to quit once he entered the White House but has had trouble doing so. This new project cannot be solely Internet based, but must also demonstrate to young smokers that seeking advice and help from health professionals is also an important step in moving forward.

Every day during the school year, I would walk down the ramp that separated the school itself from the off-campus parking lot, only to find myself enveloped in a plume of cigarette smoke from students trying to get their daily fix. Their smoking was not only damaging to their own health, but to the streams of high schoolers who walked by them each day and inhaled their fumes. There is no doubt that smoking in teens is unhealthy. The question is how can teens stop – and will this new effort be the answer?

Aseem Mehta is a high school senior who is interested in studying about public health and economics. In his spare time he loves to discuss (and debate) politics and current events, and of course, sleep.