Tobacco addiction and comorbidities associated with smoking is an enormous global health problem. According to the Surgeon General’s report, tobacco use begins in early adolscence and the average age for initial tobacco use is 14 years. Eighty eight percent of smokers tried the first cigarrette before the age of 18 years. This emphazes the need for early education and intervention among school children.
A survey sent to all public schools in Nassau County, New York, enquiring about 1) Education regarding tobacco addiction, 2) Use of specific curriculum for addiction, 3) Management of student smokers, and 4) Smoking cessation program for student smokers. The results were analyzed.
Eighty nine schools (16 high schools, 11 middle schools, and 62 elementary schools) returned the questionnaire. An addiction education program using a specific curriculum is present in 81% of middle and high schools. Thirty percent of elementary schools do not address addiction in their health education. When a student smoker is identified, 27% of schools counsel the students while only 11% inform the guardian surprisingly about this problem ( mainly elementary schools). Disciplinary action is rarely taken and 54% of elementary schools do not have a specific planof action to deal with a student smoker. Smoking cessation programs run by the guidance counselor or nurses were present in 4 high schools. Eleven schools would like to launch a program if help was available.
1) Substance addiction education should be mandatory in all public schools. 2) Having a uniform curriculum may enhance the quality of education. 3) Student smokers should be taken seriously and guardian involvement in the process of education and counseling is important. 4) Need for smoking cessation program should be assessed in all schools and help should be provided to them.
Early and continuous education about addiction in our schools may decrease the rate of tobacco addiction. Early intervention in a student smoker may prevent the development of addiction.
L. George, None.