Aug. 9 2001
Washington, DC — A new study being released today by the state of Oregon and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that Oregon's comprehensive tobacco prevention and cessation program has dramatically reduced youth smoking in that state, and that the school-based element of that program has contributed to these declines. The Oregon study, published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr//), is the latest in a growing body of research showing that comprehensive tobacco prevention programs are reducing smoking, saving money and saving lives in the states that have implemented them.
Unfortunately, most states are falling short and failing to seize the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presented by the 1998 state tobacco settlement to fund and sustain such programs and address what is the leading preventable cause of death in our nation today. The Oregon results show once again that there is no excuse for any state to delay further in funding and implementing an effective, comprehensive tobacco prevention program.
Today's study shows that Oregon's successful school-based program can serve as a model for other states. While the Oregon program has achieved reductions in tobacco use across the state, students in districts that faithfully implemented fully comprehensive school-based programs experienced larger declines in smoking. These results indicate that school based programs can be effective when conducted as part of a comprehensive approach to reduce smoking, and when schools that implement them engage in activities beyond just the use of a proven classroom-based curriculum. These activities, modeled on recommendations from the CDC, include strictly enforced school no-smoking policies, family and community involvement, curriculum instruction for staff, teacher and staff training, and smoking cessation support for students, faculty and staff.
States implementing school-based programs can learn from several critical aspects of Oregon's program: before providing funding to schools, the states must insist that schools have specific objectives for the program, that they lay out a detailed plan for achieving those objectives, and that they include all the components of a successful school-based program. Schools must also monitor the programs to ensure that they are conducted in accordance with the plan.
While the Oregon study demonstrates the impact of school-based programs when they are conducted with fidelity as part of a comprehensive tobacco prevention program, it is critical that states not limit their efforts to schools. As the CDC recommends, and as some states are demonstrating, the most successful tobacco prevention programs are comprehensive, well-funded and sustained over time. The best programs include five essential elements: public education, including aggressive counter-advertising to counter the tobacco industry's pro-smoking messages; community programs; school programs; cessation programs to help smokers quit; and enforcement of laws prohibiting tobacco sales to minors.
By implementing such programs, California, Massachusetts, and Arizona have reduced tobacco use far beyond national declines, and Florida cut smoking rates by 40 percent among middle school students and by 18 percent among high school students in just two years. Most important, recent studies show that California's pioneering prevention program is not only reducing tobacco consumption, but also saving lives by reducing rates of heart disease and lung and bronchial cancer.
We call on state legislatures to use their tobacco settlement proceeds to fund comprehensive tobacco prevention programs in accordance with the CDC's recommended funding levels and to implement these programs consistent with best practices that have proven effective in reducing tobacco