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Half of young smokers relapse after quitting, HKU project finds

About half of young people who received counselling from a University of Hong Kong smoking cessation project began smoking again within six months – despite having successfully quit in the first month – with slightly more women than men relapsing.

Among the 293 smokers who kicked the habit for a month, some 46 per cent took it back up by the sixth month, according to findings by the smoking cessation hotline Youth Quitline.

Since the hotline was set up in 2005, its operators have provided smoking cessation counselling services to 1,591 smokers aged 25 or younger. The counselling, offered by fellow students, consists of advice on ways to quit, followed by seven follow-up calls over a two-year period.

As added motivation, participants are rewarded HK$300 if they manage to stay smoke-free during the sixth month of their participation, but they must pass tests for carbon monoxide and nicotine percentages within the body. As of the end of January, the hotline had helped 335 people quit.

Young women showed a slightly higher relapse rate, with more than 51 per cent of female participants falling back into the habit within six months, compared to some 44 per cent of men.

While half of those who relapsed reported cravings as their main reason for taking up smoking again, the influence of peers was a close second.

“If friends around them are all smokers, they are more likely to … smoke again,” Dr William Li Ho-cheung, project director of the Youth Quitline, said.

“Women’s smoking is more likely linked to [their] emotions,” Professor Lam Tai-hing, of HKU’s school of public health, said.

“They might smoke when they are happy or unhappy … they might also think if men smoked, why shouldn’t they smoke, too. Sometimes they might want to act rebelliously.”

Despite the high relapse rate, more than half of the participants acknowledged health as their main reason for quitting cigarettes. Some participants reported a lack of physical strength in doing exercises.

Lam said smoking provoked depression, which then made quitting even harder.

However, younger smokers showed a relatively mild dependence on nicotine, as some 65 per cent of them smoked fewer than 10 cigarettes per day.

Still, Lam warned that aggressive measures should be taken to combat smoking among the young. “If people start smoking at an early age, two out of three will die earlier,” he said.

Source URL (modified on Apr 22nd 2015, 12:29am):

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