Tobacco use, smoking identities and pathways into and out of smoking among young adults: a meta-ethnography

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Background: This meta-ethnography investigates how young adults describe their tobacco use, smoking identities and pathways into and out of regular smoking, to inform future smoking prevention and harm reduction interventions. Methods: Eight databases were systematically searched using keywords and indexed terms. Studies were included if they presented qualitative data from young adults aged 16–25 reporting smoking histories and/or smoking identities from countries culturally similar to the UK. A systematic and rigorous meta-ethnographic approach was employed, consistent with Noblit and Hare’s methodology. Results: Thirty papers were included. Reasons stated for taking up smoking and becoming a smoker included alleviating stress, transforming one’s identity, and coping with the transition to further education, employment or leaving home. Many used smoking to aid acceptance within new peer groups, particularly when alcohol was present. Smoking was also perceived as an act of resistance and a coping mechanism for those with marginalised identities. Barriers to quitting smoking included young adults’ minimisation or denial of the health risks of smoking and not identifying with “being a smoker”. Conclusions: This meta-ethnography may provide a blueprint to inform the development of health and wellbeing interventions designed specifically for young adults. Smoking cessation interventions should be co-designed with young adults based on their perceived needs, resonant with their desire to quit in the future at key milestones. Harm reduction interventions should address the social aspect of addiction, without reinforcing stigma, particularly for those with marginalised identities.




Poole, R., Carver, H., Anagnostou, D., Edwards, A., Moore, G., Smith, P., … Brain, K. (2022, December 1). Tobacco use, smoking identities and pathways into and out of smoking among young adults: a meta-ethnography. Substance Abuse: Treatment, Prevention, and Policy. BioMed Central Ltd.

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