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Impulse to smoke can start early

Being impulsive, consuming alcohol regularly, and receiving poor grades in school may encourage teenagers to take up smoking, according to a new study.

University of Montreal researchers followed 1293 teens from the greater Montreal area that were part of the Nicotine Dependence in Teens study that started in 1999. The teens were monitored from age 12 until they were aged 24.

The researchers found that the biggest three risk factors for the teens to start smoking were being impulsive, using alcohol regularly and getting poor grades.

The researchers found by age 22, 75 per cent of the participants had tried smoking, with 44 per cent starting before high school, 43 per cent starting during high school and 14 per cent starting after leaving high school.

Not all participants who tried a cigarette continued to smoke.

Lead researcher Professor Jennifer O’Laughlin speculated that one potential reason impulsiveness may play a role in smoking in young adulthood is because parents of impulsive children exercise tighter control when they are living with them at home, to protect their children from adopting behaviours that can lead to smoking, and that this protection may diminish over time.

The study was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Meanwhile, a New Zealand study has found that one of the most effective ways to quit smoking is by using e-cigarettes.

The New Zealand researchers found that more people stopped smoking for at least six months with e-cigarettes than with nicotine patches.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that simulate the effects of smoking by heating a nicotine liquid into vapour, which the user then inhales and exhales.

E-cigarettes are banned in Australia. However, research has shown one in 10 Australian smokers that were aware of the product has tried them.

The study split more than 650 participants who wanted to quit smoking into three groups, each of which received a 13-week supply of commercially available e-cigarettes (16mg nicotine), nicotine patches (21mg, one daily) or placebo e-cigarettes.

More than 7 per cent of participants in the e-cigarettes group quit, compared with 5.8 per cent of those using nicotine patches and 4.1 per cent using the placebo.

After six months, of those participants who had not quit, 57 per cent in the e-cigarette group had reduced their daily consumption of cigarettes by at least half, compared with 41 per cent of those using patches.

Lead author, Associate Professor Chris Bullen from the University of Auckland, said the results provided a benchmark for e-cigarette performance, but said larger trials were needed.

The study also suggested that e-cigarettes were comparable to nicotine patches in terms of safety, although the researchers did say long-term research was needed.

AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton told the Sun Herald that Australia was the global leader in tobacco control and should not let its guard down.

“Plain packaging is having a real impact now, as is the pricing strategy,” Dr Hambleton said. “The end for tobacco is coming.”

Dr Hambleton said nicotine replacement therapy was a positive measure in helping people quit, but said he was concerned that the unregulated e-cigarette industry could become a recruiting tool for the next generation of smokers.

Kirsty Waterford

 

 

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