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Landmark school-based 'social influences' smoking-prevention program found not to work

SEATTLE - The most ambitious, school-based smoking-prevention study of its kind has found that teaching youth how to identify and resist social influences to smoke - the main focus of smoking-prevention education and research for more than two decades - simply doesn't work. These findings, to appear tomorrow in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, are based on a 15-year, federally funded smoking-prevention study conducted by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. The study, which involved nearly 8,400 students and more than 600 teachers throughout 40 school districts in Washington state, was the largest and longest study ever conducted in school-based smoking-prevention research.

The goal of the study, called the Hutchinson Smoking Prevention Project, or HSPP, was to find out whether a school-based smoking-prevention program using a social-influences approach can keep youth from smoking throughout and beyond high school. The social-influences approach centers on countering the social influences to smoke, from peer pressure to tobacco advertising.

The National Cancer Institute funded the $15 million study as part of a national research effort to address the increasing prevalence of daily smoking in youth. If the current trend is not reversed, an estimated 5 million of today's youth will die prematurely from smoking-related illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study began in 1984, and follow-up surveys were completed in 1999. Half of the study's 40 rural and suburban school districts were randomly assigned to the experimental group, which implemented the smoking-prevention program, and half served as comparison, or control, districts, teaching their usual health programs.

Because smoking almost always begins during or prior to the teen years, the HSPP intervention covered virtually the entire age range of smoking onset, starting early (third grade), and continuing into high school (10th g
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Contact: Kristen Woodward
kwoodwar@fhcrc.org
206-667-5095
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
18-Dec-2000


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