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Taking the No-Smoking Message to Schools

Anti-smoking advocacy sessions help reduce teen smoking

TUESDAY, March 2, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Engaging teenager smokers as anti-smoking activists may persuade them to quit the habit more effectively than lectures and scare tactics do.

That's the conclusion of a Stanford University School of Medicine study in the March issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

The study included students at 10 alternative high schools in the San Francisco/San Jose area of California. It found that regular smokers who took part in an anti-tobacco advocacy curriculum reduced their own cigarette use by 3.8 percent by the end of the semester, while the rate of cigarette use among regular smokers in a traditional drug abuse prevention classes increased by 1.5 percent.

This decrease in smoking among the teens in the anti-smoking sessions continued six months later, showing a further decline of 1 percent. Such a sustained decline is rare in efforts to reduce teen smoking, the study authors note.

"The real, sustained change we saw is different from most other studies on teenage smoking. In past studies where smoking behaviors changed, the effect was very transitory," study author Marilyn Winkleby, an associate professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, says in a prepared statement.

The anti-tobacco advocacy program was designed to increase the students' awareness of factors that promote cigarette use.

"It's not the traditional approach of providing individuals with information to get them to change their own behavior. It's an indirect way to bring about behavior change by making students aware of the social context of smoking behavior," Winkleby says.

The students learned about tobacco advertising strategies and tobacco availability. They also assessed tobacco promotion in their communities.

"Most of them were surprised and then angry when they realized how extensive it was. Teenagers don't like it when other people try to influence them," Winkelby says.

More information

The American Medical Association has more about kids and smoking.

SOURCE: Stanford University Medical Center, news release, March 1, 2004
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