Dec. 19 2000
Washington, DC — Although the study published in the December 20 Journal of the National Cancer Institute calls into question the efficacy of one school-based smoking prevention program in Washington State, there is still a large body of research to show that school-based programs, when combined with aggressive media and community programs, do achieve results. The NCI study, done over 15 years, only serves to reinforce the fact that smoking prevention programs must be comprehensive and adequately funded to achieve results.
For decades, public health experts have cautioned against having isolated tobacco education programs in the schools. The tobacco companies have offered money to states and local school districts to perpetuate the notion that these school-based programs are sufficient to educate generations of children not to smoke. The NCI study shows just how ineffective this industry-supported approach is when it is not part of a comprehensive effort.
There is strong evidence that many school-based programs, tested and approved by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are currently working well and resulting in large declines in youth smoking in the few states implementing them as part of comprehensive programs. Florida, California and Massachusetts are among the states that have shown dramatic results when school-based programs are combined with other prevention tools including counter-marketing, cessation clinics for kids and adults, community education and strong enforcement of youth access laws.
The 1998 tobacco settlement has given all 50 states the resources to fund and implement effective tobacco prevention programs that can keep kids away from tobacco and save lives. But only 16 states have allocated substantial funds for tobacco prevention, and of these, only six have allocated the minimum amounts recommended by the CDC. The NCI study is the latest evidence that isolated prevention efforts are likely to have little or no effect. All 50 states need to properly fund and implement effective comprehensive tobacco prevention programs in order to have any chance of stemming the epidemic of tobacco use by America's kids.