Using the Internet to Help Young Smokers Quit

UIC Podcast
UIC Podcast
Using the Internet to Help Young Smokers Quit

News Release


[Writer] This is research news from U-I-C – the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Today, Robin Mermelstein, director of the UIC Institute for Health Research and Policy, talks about a research project to increase demand for evidence-based internet approaches to help young adults stop smoking.

Here’s professor Mermelstein:

[Mermelstein] We have a new grant from the National Cancer Institute to look at the problem of smoking among young adults. Those are people between the ages of 18 and 24.

What we’re trying to do is find ways to help young adults, specifically, stop smoking. Surprisingly, this age group has the highest rate of smoking compared to any other age group.

In fact, smoking starts to escalate between the ages of 18 and 24, and even though many young adults think about quitting and actually want to stop, they have among the lowest rates of quitting and trying, and importantly, when they do try they tend not to use what we know works or not to use evidence-based approaches to quitting.

So this grant is meant to help develop strategies to increase the demand or to motivate young adults to actually use evidenced-based treatment for smoking cessation.

Getting people to use what works, rather than making a lot of gratuitous quit attempts on techniques and approaches that may not work and may lead them to get discouraged.

So we’ve got a bunch of very exciting and innovative approaches using the internet. Young adults use the internet a lot and a lot of our prior work has shown that, especially with this population, if you want to reach them, if you want to engage them, you want to go where they are and the internet is it. So our approach is to develop messages that might have some enduring value delivered across the internet to drive the demand of young adults to seek evidence-based treatments.

In this project, we’re partnering with the University of Iowa and the American Legacy Foundation to develop these strategies and to help young adults use a very effective and engaging evidenced-based stop smoking program which is BecomeAnEx. It’s developed by the American Legacy Foundation as an interactive, internet-based program that is meant to be appealing and engage and work for young adult smokers.

So our approach is to figure out what are the motivating messages to drive the demand for this web site or other evidence-based internet approaches. And some of our work to date has found that, surprisingly, young adults have a lot of treatment myths. That is they don’t actually think that treatments work or they think they’re better off using home grown or naturalistic kinds of approaches and tend to shun what we know works. So needing to demystify those beliefs about treatment that it’s not bad, that it’s often a very important thing to do. And the other thing we want to do is build them motivation; find strategies to help them to think through now is the time to quit, not five years from now, not 10 years from now, but why not do it now. So part of our approach is to work with University of Iowa researchers and American Legacy Foundation to develop engaging and interactive internet-based ads, to develop and evaluate these ads, and then within a large scale study that would be launched across the internet, therefore nationwide, to evaluate are we reaching young adults, how many are we driving, what do they think of these approaches, and are they motivated, and ultimately help them to quit.

[Writer] Robin Mermelstein is a professor in psychology.

For more information about this research, go to, click on “news releases.” … and look for the release dated June 30, 2009.

This has been research news from U-I-C – the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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