Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, causing about 500,000 deaths per year and driving up costs in the U.S. health care system.
And more than 80 percent of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 18 years old – a fact that provides an opportunity to educate adolescents and teens about the dangers of tobacco. In fact, schools across the United States and the globe use curricula aimed at discouraging students from smoking. But do these actually work?
A new systematic review finds they are effective. The review, sponsored by the Cochrane Collaboration, included 49 studies involving more than 140,000 school children from across the globe. The studies looked at interventions designed to prevent children who had never smoked from becoming smokers.
In the first year, the program had no significant effects. But student who participated for more than one year were less likely to start smoking. The most effective programs shared factual information, and also equipped students with social, emotional and behavioral skills useful in saying no to smoking.
The review also found that students in programs with adult leaders and presenters were more likely to refrain from smoking in contrast to those with young presenters.
The review provides a lot of new information for educators and community workers who plan and implement smoking prevention programs – evidence that has the potential to save lives.