Cool Teenagers Use Peer Pressure to Prevent Smoking

teen smoking

The Influence Project

Getting teenagers to stop smoking is one of the toughest quests out there for doctors and public health professionals, but today the University of Bristol announced that it has its hands on a new approach–using teenagers as messengers–that it thinks will actually work. Having just concluded an extensive trial using influential teenagers to help prevent the uptake of smoking among their peers by conveying particular messages in social situations, the University is ready to roll out a nationwide preventative initiative across the U.K.

While institutions like the CDC, WHO, and numerous research institutions at top Universities are busy using largely government-sponsored media campaigns, it turns out that it may be more effective to rely on the good ol’ traditional in-person tactic. The influential teenagers in the initial trial had the responsibility of making it uncool for their peers to begin smoking in the first place and results indicate that such an approach could help prevent 40,000 more teens from taking up the habit. So in the Bristol approach, a preventative–rather than treatment-based–approach, relying heavily on direct communication and social influence, is key.

“Our research has shown that teenagers respond far better to anti-smoking messages from their peers than they do from the Government, the NHS, their teachers or even their parents,” said Professor Rona Campbell in the University of Bristol press release.

It will be interesting to watch how quickly those same “influential” teenagers turn un-cool because of their anti-smoking behavior and language or if they’re suave enough to casually slip in a sentence or two here or there. Either way, we’re looking forward to watching how this plays out and if it goes well, the U.S. may need to take a note or two.

[Image: flickr user Valentin Ottone]JN