Health Promotion Journal of Australia Health Promotion Journal of Australia Society
Journal of the Australian Health Promotion Association

Try and try again: Qualitative insights into adolescent smoking experimentation and notions of addiction

Justine Leavy, Lisa Wood, Fiona Phillips and Michael Rosenberg

Health Promotion Journal of Australia 21(3) 208 - 214
Published: 01 December 2010


Issue addressed: Addiction is a relatively unexplored issue in youth tobacco control. Increasingly, there is recognition of addiction experiences in regular and irregular teenage smokers. Research was undertaken on behalf of the Smarter than Smoking (STS) project to probe young people?s reasons for smoking uptake, their attitudes towards the social acceptability of smoking, predictors of continued smoking after trial and understandings and perceptions of addiction. Methods: Twenty focus groups were conducted to collect qualitative data from young people (n=92) aged 13 to 15 years from metropolitan and regional areas of Western Australia (WA), from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, including young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Results: Of the young people spoken to, 20% smoked regularly, 40% had tried smoking and 40% had never tried. Acceptability and normalcy of trialling smoking was a recurring theme, with little perceived risk of trial leading to regular smoking or becoming addicted. Even non-smokers accepted ?just having a try? in the context of curiosity, life experiences and ?informed choice?. Conclusions: Preventing continuation after trial of smoking among young people needs to increase in importance, given the prevailing norms around ?trying it? and individual choice. Key words: youth smoking, addiction trialists, prevention.

© Australian Health Promotion Association 2010

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