Researchers from the University of Montreal studied 319 Montreal teens who reported their smoking habits every three months for five years.
"The study found that teen smokers make their first serious attempt to quit after only two and a half months of smoking, and by the time they have smoked for 21 months they have lost confidence in their ability to quit," said Dr. Jennifer O'Loughlin, lead author of the study.
They found that more than 70 percent of the teens expressed a desire to quit, but only 19 percent actually managed to stop smoking for 12 months or more by the end of the five-year study.
Girls were more likely than boys to want to quit and to attempt quitting.
"These findings indicate that teenagers want to quit smoking," said Dr. O'Loughlin.
"We really need to develop and implement effective tobacco control interventions for young people, before it's too late," she added.
"These findings show that teen smokers want to quit and attempt to quit, but very few are actually able to stop for long periods" said Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst, Canadian Cancer Society, which funded the study.
"This research suggests that much more needs to be done to prompt teenagers to quit in terms of programming, legislation and taxation.
In particular, federal and provincial governments must get the contraband situation under control - cheap cigarettes discourage teen smokers from quitting," he added.