Date of Award

1-1-2009

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Health Education

First Advisor

Welshimer,Kathleen

Abstract

Although the adverse health effects of cigarette smoking are well known, many college students continue to initiate and maintain cigarette smoking. While some college students are making quit attempts, they have limited success. Past research has identified graduation as one life event around which college students plan to quit smoking. Therefore, the college senior may be at a reachable moment related to cessation interventions. It was one purpose of the present study to examine whether attitudes, self-efficacy, and subjective norms might influence a college senior's intention to quit smoking at graduation. Past research has also identified friends and peers as an influencing factor related to initiation and maintenance of student smoking. A second purpose was to examine the influence of peer group norms and strength of group identification on intentions to quit smoking among college seniors. The theory of planned behavior provided the theoretical framework for the study. Using a nonexperimental cross sectional design, data were collected from 573 undergraduate college seniors via a web-based survey. Sixty three percent of the respondents were female and thirty seven percent were male. Of respondents, 26.5% (n= 152) reported being current smokers (had smoked at least one cigarette in the last thirty days) and of the current smokers, 48.7% (n=74) were daily and 51.3% (n=78) were occasional smokers. Independent sample t–tests revealed that, although the original hypothesis (daily smokers would have more positive intentions toward quitting than nondaily smokers) was not supported, nondaily smokers did have more positive intentions to quit smoking than daily smokers. When intentions were examined by sex, no statistical difference was found between males and females in intentions to quit smoking at graduation. Multiple regression revealed that the attitude a smoker holds about quitting was the strongest predictor of quitting intentions, followed by the confidence in one's ability to quit (self-efficacy). The importance of the beliefs held by important others (subjective norms) about quitting was also predictive of intentions to quit, but to a lesser extent than attitudes and self-efficacy. Respondents chose a “most important peer group” (i.e. people I live with, other students in my major), which they used to answer survey questions related to peer group norms and strength of group identification. When group norms and strength of group identification variables were entered into multiple regression, the effects of group norms and group identification were not significant predictors. Strength of group identification was not found to be a moderating variable for group norms when predicting intentions to quit cigarette smoking. The present study used two concepts (subjective norms and group norms) to examine social influence on behavioral intentions. Future studies will be useful in establishing how social influences can best be conceptualized.

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