Role of Peers Key in Curbing Adolescent Smoking

May 9, 2008

A smoking education program that trained influential adolescents to encourage their peers not to smoke resulted in a 22 percent lower likelihood of smoking among 12- and 13-year olds, researchers report in the May 10 issue of The Lancet.

FRIDAY, May 9 (HealthDay News) -- A smoking education program that trained influential adolescents to encourage their peers not to smoke resulted in a 22 percent lower likelihood of smoking among 12- and 13-year olds, researchers report in the May 10 issue of The Lancet.

Rona Campbell, Ph.D., of the University of Bristol in Bristol, U.K., and colleagues randomized 59 schools in England and Wales, including a total of 10,730 students aged 12 to 13 years, to continue their usual smoking education program or participate in a smoking prevention intervention, ASSIST (A Stop Smoking In Schools Trial). The intervention involved training influential students to act as peer supporters during non-school activities, encouraging their peers not to smoke. The prevalence of smoking was assessed immediately after the intervention, and at one and two years post-intervention.

The investigators found that the risk of smoking was lower in intervention schools compared to control schools immediately after the intervention (odds ratio, 0.75), at one year (OR, 0.77) and at two years (0.85), with corresponding values of 0.79, 0.75 and 0.85, respectively, for students deemed to be high risk. Combining data from all three follow-up points yielded an overall odds ratio of 0.78, the report indicates.

"If the program was repeated every year with successive year groups, it would probably have an effect on the cultural norms surrounding smoking behavior in the whole school, magnifying the effect of the intervention," the authors conclude.

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