et al. 1998; Fishbein and Ajzen 1975; Pallonen et al. 1998; Parsons et al. 1997; Prokhorov et al. 2002).
Researchers have also examined the extent to which adolescents understand the grip of addiction and the implications of addiction on quitting. The results of these studies indicate that, although adolescents might be aware of the health and long-term risks of smoking in general, they are much less aware of the addictive nature of smoking. There are also indications that adolescent smokers might be less worried about the long-term risks of smoking, in part because they believe that they can quit smoking easily and at any time.
Weinstein and colleagues examined youth and adult smokers’ beliefs about the difficulty of quitting smoking and the nature of addiction (Weinstein et al. 2004). On the basis of data from two nationwide surveys, they found that most (96 percent) smokers, both youth and adults, agreed that the longer you smoke, the harder it is to quit. A high proportion of both groups also agreed that signs of addiction appear very quickly if a teenager starts smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day: 80 percent of youth and 79 percent of adults said signs of addiction appeared in a few months or less. The youths examined in that study also tended to claim that they were less addicted than the average smoker.
Similarly, Jamieson and Romer found that a substantial proportion of smokers understood that the properties of tobacco are addictive, but they did not fully appreciate the implications for quitting (Jamieson and Romer 2001b). Their survey results showed that, whereas 82 percent of smokers agreed that cigarettes have addictive chemical properties, nearly 60 percent of those smokers believed that quitting is either very easy or possible for most people if they really try. These findings are consistent with those reported by Arnett who showed that nearly 60 percent of adolescents believed that they could smoke for a few years and then quit (Arnett 2000). However, most of them do not quit. Smoking continues beyond the high school years, with 63 percent of 12th grade daily smokers still smoking daily 7 to 9 years later, even though only 3 percent of them estimated in high school that they would still be smoking in 5 years (Johnston et al. 2004).
Another area where smokers, including adolescents, have a distorted understanding of the risks of smoking is in the comparative effects of so-called “light” cigarettes and regular cigarettes. Adolescents often smoke