Can school nurses help teens quit smoking?

2011-10-20 07:20

Counselling sessions with a school nurse may help some high school students, especially boys, quit smoking – but only for a little while.

US researchers, who studied about 1 000 teens who said they wanted to quit smoking, wrote in the journal Pediatrics that close to 11% of those who got counselling for three months had quit smoking, compared to 6% of those who only received educational pamphlets.

“A school nurse-delivered, smoking-cessation intervention proved feasible and effective in improving short-term abstinence among adolescent boys and short-term reductions in smoking amount and frequency in both genders,” wrote study author Lori Pbert of the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.

But a year after the sessions, there was no difference in smoking rates based on what kind of assistance teens had got from their nurses. In addition, fewer than one in five teens said they hadn’t smoked recently.

“It’s nice that there was some effect at three months, what we really care about is sustained cessation,” said Michael Siegel, who studies tobacco control at the Boston University School of Public health but wasn’t involved in the study.

“The overwhelming majority of these kids are not quitting.”

In the 35 Massachusetts schools covered in the study, half the nurses were trained to give their students one-on-one counselling based around goal setting and problem solving, including making a plan to quit and then preventing relapses.

The other nurses gave students information pamphlets on quitting smoking and volunteered to answer any questions they had about the process. Both groups of nurses saw their students at four weekly sessions, ranging from 10 to 30 minutes.

The counselling intervention appeared to especially help boys in the short run. Those who had made goals and tracked progress with the nurses were three times more likely to say they had stopped smoking than boys in the “control” group.

But between 13% and 17% of both boys and girls reported they had stopped lighting up a year later, regardless of whether or not they had received counselling.

Other smoking cessation experts noted that relapsing into smoking is the biggest hurdle at any age, and that teens were especially likely to do so. But they added that the more options teens had for help, the better.

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