TUESDAY Nov. 22, 2011 (HealthDay News) --College students tend to smoke when they are partying, drinking and working, according to a new study.
"Students are using social events and work as cues to remind them about smoking," said the study's lead author, Nikole Cronk, an assistant professor of family and community medicine at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, in a news release. "This research is important for those working with college students to recognize when smoking is happening at its highest levels."
Prevention programs should target students during those times, Cronk added.
The study is in the journal Substance Use & Misuse.
About 30 percent of college students say they smoke, researchers noted. Since most smokers pick up the habit before age 24, prevention efforts aimed at college students could significantly reduce the number of smokers.
Students smoke more on weekends, at the beginning of the semester and while on vacation, according to the study.
"We know that college is a time where we see initiation of smoking," Cronk said. "If you ask college students, many will tell you it's something they don't intend to do after they're out of school, but a significant number do continue smoking. What we know is there's no safe level of smoking and no way to know that once you start you'll be able to easily quit."
The study is part of a larger research project based on motivational interviewing. As opposed to a traditional intervention approach that tells a person how to behave, this technique focuses on what's important to an individual, such as their goals and values, to help inspire them to change their behavior.
"The key for intervention using that approach is identifying an individual's motivation for smoking," Cronk said. "Helping people understand why they are engaging in a behavior has much more promise for getting that person to address a behavior."
The National Cancer Society provides more information on cigarette smoking.