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Arizona targets teen smokers with smoking-cessation program


PHOENIX — Arizona last week launched what it is billing as the first-ever comprehensive program aimed at helping adolescents and young adult smokers called “The Cignal.” The program uses a website ( with customized tips and advice for young smokers and a toll-free helpline (1-800-55-66-222) where they can talk to quit coaches for free.

“The Cignal has the potential to forever change young lives,” stated Stephen Michael, Arizona Smokers’ Helpline and The Cignal director. “It can help reverse the trend among those who graduate from casual smokers to permanent smokers. [As many as] 90% of adult smokers say they became fully addicted at age 18. The Cignal can set a new precedence for this age group throughout the nation.”

Focusing on adolescent and young adult cessation is important because about 17% of Arizona youth use tobacco products, Michael said. More than half of youth smokers do not try to quit, according to the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System survey.

Quit coaches will help teens recognize their addiction to tobacco and provide assistance in quitting. Over-the-counter medication and other drug therapies will not be advised or made available to tobacco users under the age of 18 years through The Cignal. Callers younger than 18 will be encouraged to speak to their doctor if they are interested in nicotine replacement therapy. Parental consent will not be required to speak to a quit coach.

“When we counsel young adults, we stress that quitting will take time and they have the ability to achieve their goal,” Michael said. “We may encourage them to abandon social circles that sustain their tobacco use, and we may also encourage them to enlist friends and, if possible, family who support their desire to quit. The Cignal maximizes existing resources, and is developing best practices to help adolescent and young adult smokers in Arizona.”

According to recent interviews with young tobacco users across Arizona, teen and young adult smokers are different from adult smokers. Young smokers may not smoke daily and do not see themselves as smokers. They also aren’t receptive to the idea of needing help to quit. Many teen and young adult smokers believe that they can quit at any time without help, and have little or no knowledge about quitting. About 20% of high school students across the country are smokers, and a third of them will die prematurely from smoking-related disease, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.

“Even though The Cignal doesn’t require parental consent, parents can play a role if they suspect that their adolescent smokes,” Michael said. “Parents should avoid threats or ultimatums and instead show interest in a helpful way, such as asking them questions about why they are smoking or what changes can be made to help them quit.”

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