NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Deterring Youth Smoking

October 12, 2001

Youth smoking peaks between the ages of 13 and 14, and more than 90 percent of adult smokers began smoking when they were teenagers. A program designed to discourage minority sixth graders from experimenting with cigarettes appeared to cut the number who said they wanted to try smoking in half, according to researchers.

The program, conducted at the Tuskegee Institute Middle School in Alabama, was modeled on a nationwide program called "Tar Wars," which was started in 1988 to help educate adolescents about the risks and dangers of smoking and tobacco use.

A team of experimenters led discussions and visual activities with 150 students -- 98 percent of whom were African American -- demonstrating the potential harmful effects of tobacco use.

Students were given a questionnaire both before and after the program to determine whether or not they had tried smoking themselves and if their friends or relatives smoked.

  • About 13 percent of the students reported smoking.
  • Around 17 percent had friends who smoked.
  • Slightly less than a third had parents who smoked, and a similar number said they had at least one smoker in the home.

Overall, after they had participated in the program, the students' willingness to try cigarettes was cut in half.

Before the program, 12 percent of the students said they might try cigarettes; after the program only 6 percent said they would.

The program "appeared to be effective as a short-term intervention to change sixth graders' attitudes toward smoking," the authors conclude.

Source: "Program may help deter youth smoking: study," Reuters Health, October 4, 2001.


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