Smoking Cessation Program Plus Physical Activity May Curb Teen Smoking

A study by researchers at Penn State and West Virginia University shows that adding physical activity to tobacco cessation programs for teens may enhance cessation success. The study will be published in the October 2011 issue of Pediatrics.

“It is no secret that West Virginia has one of the nation’s worst smoking problems, said Steven Branstetter, an assistant professor of biobehavioral health and an author on the paper. “In fact, there are some counties in West Virginia that have a smoking rate approaching 50 percent. This study shows that youth can quit smoking—even in an area with a higher than average smoking rate—given the right tools.”

The 233 teens in the study were regular daily smokers, smoking about half of a pack a day during the week and up to a pack on weekends, and they were addicted. Most started smoking around age 11. The researchers assigned randomly selected West Virginia high schools with more than 300 students to brief intervention programs, the teen-cessation program Not on Tobacco (N-O-T), or the N-O-T program plus physical activity (N-O-T program + FIT). N-O-T was developed at West Virginia University.

The team found that those who received the N-O-T program + FIT maintained a greater chance of quitting smoking at three months and six months from the start of the program. Overall, youth in the control group were two times more likely to continue smoking.

The team also found that the N-O-T program + FIT decreased the risk of continued smoking fourfold for boys. Girls, however, quit more successfully with N-O-T regardless of whether physical activity was added compared with the brief intervention. “Generally, we know that teenage boys engage in more vigorous exercise than girls and are often more confident in their ability to be physically active,” said Branstetter. “The teenage years are also a time when girls’ activity levels plummet. Additional exploration of our data will help us to determine if the intensity of exercise, for example, is strongly related to successful quitting. Moreover, it is also possible that confidence also plays a role. Girls in our N-O-T program perhaps had some stronger fitness barriers to overcome than did boys.”

According to Branstetter, the study shows that it may be possible to successfully intervene with two health behaviors simultaneously. This is particularly important in West Virginia where smoking and sedentary lifestyle often go hand in hand.

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Editors: For additional information, please contact the College of Health and Human Development Office of College Relations at 814-865-3831 or healthhd@psu.edu.