Purpose – the aim of this paper is to explore the beliefs of 15-17 year-old dutch adolescents about starting or quitting smoking and to explore their preferences regarding education concerning this topic.design/methodology/approach – the paper shows that a total of 12 group interviews were held with 101 students in the highest classes in secondary school (lower and higher secondary school and first class of intermediate vocational education).findings – the findings in this paper indicate that most adolescents started smoking to be cool and because they were curious about the taste of a cigarette. Smokers felt that smoking is sociable and relaxing, while non-smokers emphasized the negative consequences of smoking. Smokers expected to quit smoking when the price of cigarettes further increased, or when they fell ill as a result of smoking. They did not expect to receive social support from their friends and parents during a quit attempt. The hardest times during their quit attempts would be in the presence of smoking friends, when feeling stressed or during a night out. Adolescents preferred to receive future education through the internet. A web site should consist of much colour and animated images, but should also be serious.originality/value – the paper shows that computer tailoring could be an effective method of educating adolescents about (quitting) smoking through the internet, since it links up with their personal situation and therefore relevant advice can be given.