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Am J Health Promot. 2011 May-Jun;25(5 Suppl):S31-7. doi: 10.4278/ajhp.100610-QUAL-179.

Multiple perspectives on tobacco use among youth with mental health disorders and addictions.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado 80045, USA.



Youth and young adults with mental health disorders and addictions are at a high risk of becoming nicotine dependent, and at least half will die of tobacco-related diseases. In comparison to the general population, this population also faces neurobiological and psychosocial vulnerabilities. There is a critical need for community services and research targeting tobacco interventions for these individuals.


A concurrent mixed methods study was conducted by collecting data from in-depth key informant interviews, focus groups, and a survey. Qualitative key informant interviews with healthcare professionals (n = 11) and youth focus groups (n = 32) were conducted by using semi-structured questioning regarding barriers and facilitators to tobacco interventions. Content analysis was used to code transcripts and categorize themes. Survey data were also collected from 230 smokers ages 13 to 17 years (n = 62) and young adults ages 18 to 25 years (n = 40) at three community mental health centers. The survey inquired about tobacco use, motivation to quit, history of quit attempts, and treatment preferences.


Five thematic categories were identified in both the adult key informant interviews and the focus groups with youth: (1) motivation to quit, (2) cessation treatment needs, (3) social influence, (4) barriers to treatment, and (5) tobacco-free policy. Among those surveyed, 44% currently smoked. Youth and young adult survey respondents who smoked were often motivated to quit, few had used proven tobacco cessation aids, but there was interest in access to nicotine replacement therapy.


Merged qualitative and quantitative findings support past literature regarding youth in the general population but also expand upon our knowledge of issues specific to youth and young adults with mental health disorders and addictions. Findings suggest interventions warranting further attention in community treatment settings.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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