The smoking attitudes, knowledge, intent, and behaviors of adolescents and young adults: Implications for nursing practice

Barbara J. Ganley, Dianne I. Rosario


Background /Objective: Sixty percent of all smokers in the United States (U.S.) try smoking cigarettes before they are 18 years old. Family and peer behavior (subjective norm), and attitude may influence young people to initiate smoking. The aims of this study were to 1) determine if attitude, subjective norm, and knowledge could predict smoking behaviors; 2) identify reasons for smoking; 3) determine if there were differences in attitudes toward smoking between smokers and non-smokers; and 4) determine smokers’ intent to quit.

Methods: The population of interest included individuals age 30 or younger. The instrument, in the form of an online Tobacco Survey, was distributed via email, Facebook®, and other social media. The survey was created on Survey®. Data were collected for nine months and analyzed using SPSS® version 17 for Windows®.

Results: Cronbach’s alpha for the primary factors were high to adequate, attitude a = .89, knowledge a = .71, and subjective norm a = .67. Results suggested subjective norm and attitude may predict smoking but knowledge was not a predictor. Over 70% of the smokers tried their first cigarette before the age of 18 years. Most reported reasons for smoking were alcohol consumption, smoking with friends in social settings, stress relief, and relaxation. Seventy-five percent of the smokers agreed that smoking was addictive and knowledge was high regarding the hazards of smoking. Less than 50% of the smokers planned to quit within the next year.

Conclusions: Tobacco use among adolescents and young adults may be directly influenced by overall attitude and peer and family smoking behaviors. Knowledge of the hazards of smoking does not appear to influence smoking behaviors; therefore it is recommended health care providers, and others in a position to influence young people, focus on changing attitudes about smoking.

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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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