Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Smoking ban in England has a dramatic impact on prevalence

Nursing Times on the smoking ban, and the impact of schools on young people’s smoking behaviour:

In addition to helping people quit smoking, an important aspect of public health promotion is preventing young people from taking up smoking. Henderson et al investigated whether school characteristics can account for differences in smoking rates between schools.

The survey, led by the MRC and based on 5,092 secondary school pupils in 24 Scottish schools, found that school-level characteristics have an impact on both male and female pupils’ rates of smoking up to 15/16 years of age. The size of the ‘school effect’ was greater for boys at this age. The research found that the social environment in schools – particularly the quality of teacher-pupil relationships, pupils’ attitudes to school and the school’s focus on caring and inclusiveness – can influence both boys’ and girls’ smoking.

The MRC says that this research is particularly important because the decreases in adult smoking witnessed in recent years have not so far been matched in adolescent smokers. The survey found that, on average, 25% of males and 39% of females aged 15–16 reported that they either regularly or occasionally smoked.

The Henderson paper says they looked at whether sex and relationships education had an influence on prevalence, but decided not to look at smoking education:

We did not collect data on school-based smoking education or school level smoking policies. A recent Cochrane review [8] concluded that school-based smoking education is largely ineffective, and so collecting such data might not have influenced the results substantially. It is not clear whether data on school level smoking policies would have affected the results: this would be a very interesting avenue for future research.

They conclude:

We observed ‘school effects’ on rates of smoking for males and, to a lesser extent, females at 15/16 years. For male school pupils, attitude to school, quality of staff-pupil relationships, school-level affluence and its interaction with school level poor quality of staff-pupil relationships, were all associated with school level smoking rates and successfully explained the ‘school effects’. It is likely that there are additional effects of peer influence and perhaps small geographical area effects. However, peer influence is itself subject to the school effects and evidence to date suggests that area effects are smaller than school effects. Therefore, our results suggest that changing school characteristics may have an effect on smoking and so support a Health Promoting School approach.

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Filed under: Scotland, tobacco,

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