Smoking prevention within social work organizations : a qualitative study about youngsters’ and youth workers’ perceptions

Kenji Leta, Emelien Lauwerier, Sara Willems, Sarah Vermeersch, Babette Demeester, Maïté Verloigne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Tobacco smoking uptake is still a major public health concern, especially among youngsters living in vulnerable situations. Finding optimal ways to engage youngsters in smoking prevention is important. Compared to traditional settings such as schools, social work settings providing sports-based and recreational activities (SR-settings) tend to reach and engage youngsters more. This study aimed to gain insight into the reasons for smoking uptake among youngsters living in vulnerable situations and the conditions through which SR-settings are potentially beneficial for smoking prevention initiatives. Data were collected in two SR-settings in Flanders, Belgium, by means of five focus group discussions and six individual interviews with youngsters (n = 38, mean age = 12.9 ± 2.61 years, 69.7% boys) and eight individual interviews with youth workers (n = 8, mean age = 27.5 ± 7.95 years, 87.5% men). A thematic analysis (TA) approach was applied to analyse the data. Besides individual factors, such as attitudes towards smoking, the desire to be part of a group and conformity to group norms seem to be important drivers of smoking uptake among youngsters in vulnerable situations. The presence of powerful role models in SR-settings with whom youngsters identify may counteract group norms by encouraging healthy behaviour. SR-settings seem suitable for questioning perceptions of vulnerable youngsters, unlike other settings where they may struggle to be heard. The conditional characteristics of SR-settings, such as authentic group processes, having meaningful roles, and being heard, make these contexts promising venues for smoking prevention efforts among vulnerable youngsters. Youth workers who have established trusting relationships with youngsters seem well-suited to communicate smoking prevention messages. A participatory approach, in which youngsters are involved in developing smoking prevention programs, is desirable.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberdaad047
JournalHealth Promotion International
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2023
Externally publishedYes


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