FRIDAY, April 16, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A University of Wisconsin study found that almost 90 percent of college students who were daily smokers and 50 percent of those who were occasional smokers were still smoking four years after they enrolled in the study.
The findings, published in the current issue of Health Psychology, indicate it's important to target college students for smoking cessation interventions, the study authors said. The results also show it's a mistake to believe college students who smoke can easily quit within a few years.
"We also found that some college smokers did move between categories -- 14 percent of occasional smokers became daily smokers, and 11 percent of nonsmokers took up smoking," Michael Fiore, director of the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention, said in a prepared statement.
More males than females made that progression from occasional smoking to daily smoking over the course of the study.
There was some good news. More than half of occasional smokers and 13 percent of daily smokers kicked the habit before the end of the study.
Students who were occasional smokers were more likely to continue smoking if they strongly believed that smoking offered positive emotional experiences, lessened negative emotional experiences, and helped them control their weight.
Nonsmokers were more likely to believe they could use other methods to achieve those goals.
"Helping students to develop realistic expectations about smoking and to find other ways to cope with negative feelings may be helpful in reducing dependence upon smoking. This is critical, since we know that half of those who become daily lifetime smokers will be killed prematurely by a disease directly caused by their smoking," Fiore said.
The study included 647 freshmen and sophomores enrolled in the introductory psychology class.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has advice on how to quit smoking.