“Isn't there a bunch of side effects?”: A focus group study on the beliefs about cessation treatments of non-college educated young adult smokers

Danielle A. Duarte, Julia Cen Chen-Sankey, Kathleen Dang, Leah Orozco, Bambi Jewett, Kelvin Choi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Smoking remains more prevalent among non-college educated and racial/ethnic minority young adults in the U.S. These smokers are less likely than their college educated/non-Hispanic white counterparts to use cessation treatments approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Alternative cessation methods (e.g., e-cigarettes) have also grown in popularity among smokers. Therefore, we conducted a focus group study to explore perceptions and beliefs about various cessation treatments among, racially/ethnically diverse, non-college educated young adult smokers. Seventy-five 18–29-year-old current smokers without a 4-year college education were recruited from the U.S. Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and attended one of twelve focus groups to discuss their awareness, beliefs, experiences, and intention for future use of cessation treatments. Focus groups were stratified by race/ethnicity (non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, and Hispanic) and educational attainment (≤ high school vs. some college without obtaining a bachelor's degree). We used a thematic approach to analyze the discussions. We found that few participants were aware of cessation counseling or cessation related programs. Many participants reported previously using nicotine replacement therapies and e-cigarettes to quit smoking. Participants had little intention to use prescription medications due to perceived side effects. Participants' awareness, beliefs, and intentions of using other cessation treatments varied by race/ethnicity and educational attainment. In conclusion, our findings, if confirmed by subsequent quantitative studies, suggest that targeted media campaigns may be needed to explain the contents and benefits of behavioral cessation programs to non-college educated young adult smokers. Targeted media messages aim to overcome negative perceptions related to nicotine replacement therapy and prescription medications among non-college educated young adult smokers, especially those from racial/ethnic minority populations, may promote successful smoking cessation in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-41
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment
StatePublished - May 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


  • Beliefs
  • Perceptions
  • Qualitative study
  • Smoking cessation methods
  • Young adult smokers


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