Around 12.5 percent of young smokers who participated in a brief peer intervention in a community setting were able to quit the habit within six months, according to a new study published in the Journal of Community Health.
These results are very promising, said researchers, given that only about five percent of smokers are typically able to quit on their own.
“Tobacco-cessation efforts aimed at newer smokers often don’t work, likely because they are based on what works for longer-term smokers versus younger smokers who identify as social smokers,” said study co-author Kimberly Bankston-Lee, senior program director of the Sacramento Taking Action Against Nicotine Dependence (STAND) project of Breathe California Sacramento Region.
“One of the key differences with our approach was the comfort factor. Younger smokers were able to interact with people their own age in locations where they all typically hang out.”
Nearly 30 high school and college students known as the “Street Team” provided the five- to 10-minute intervention, which included one-on-one education, motivational messages, quit kits, and referrals to quit-smoking resources. Team members were recruited and trained by STAND, which also developed the outreach protocol.
Over a four-year period, the team delivered the intervention to 279 younger smokers at booths set up at about 30 street fairs, concerts, mall activities, Second Saturday Art Walks and other Sacramento region community events. Follow-up calls were made to 76 participants three times within six months to collect information and determine whether or not the intervention worked.
Around 12.5 percent of the participants had quit by the six-month mark, more than double the cessation rate of smokers who try to quit on their own.
A majority of participants, 70 percent, reported that the quit kit of giveaways packaged in a water bottle aided their quitting efforts, especially tobacco alternatives they could place in their mouths or hold in their hands such as gum, trail mix, toothpicks, honey sticks and stress balls.
Discussions with the Street Team were also helpful, especially those focused on quit-smoking strategies, the costs of smoking and the health harms of tobacco.
Next, the researchers plan to investigate the effectiveness of the intervention at specific sites like community college campuses, utilizing delivery teams from those sites as well.
“Almost all smokers first tried using tobacco by age 26,” said senior author Dr. Elisa Tong, an internal medicine physician at University of California (UC) Davis Health. “If we can find ways to encourage them to stop smoking before their addictive behaviors become hard-wired, we have a much better chance of getting ahead of the enticing methods tobacco companies constantly devise to reinforce lifelong use of their products.”
“Our goals are to find the most powerful ways to engage and empower Sacramento youth to live tobacco-free lives, and then share those tools with the rest of California and the U.S.”