PURPOSE: Over 90% of smokers begin smoking before the age of 18. Antismoking programs in schools play a major role in preventing smoking habits in students. Studies have shown that anti-smoking instructions as part of the curriculum is effective in preventing initiation of smoking among children. In 1988 National School Boards Association issued a report outlining the implementation steps and guidelines concerning nonsmoking policies and antismoking school programs. We conducted this survey to obtain baseline knowledge in early grade school children about the ill effects of smoking prior to implementation of antismoking educational program.
METHODS: A 10 point questionnaire (Yes/No answers) was administered to the children of 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades in Corpus Christie, Texas. A total of 4161 children completed the survey.
RESULTS: The overall baseline knowledge of all grades about the ill effects of smoking, its addictive nature, the effects of passive smoking and smoking prevention programs was good. The correct responses for all grades ranged from 81% to 97%. There was a statistically significant higher knowledge level among the 3rd graders compared to 1st and 2nd graders.
CONCLUSION: The overall knowledge level was good but there is room for improvement in the first and second grades. Antismoking classes must be initiated early, preferably in the first grade. Obtaining baseline knowledge is important to assess the effectiveness of antismoking programs. Following this survey antismoking message was delivered to these children through a cartoon movie and comic book involving lovable ants depicting the ill effects of smoking. A repeat survey following this educational program is underway.
CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: Smoking among students is a major public health problem. Antismoking education programs must be part of a comprehensive school health curriculum and they should emphasize on social and health consequences of smoking and reflect the needs of the community. Training students in refusal skills, involving parents, teachers and peers in smoking-prevention activities will discourage children from ever starting to smoke and reinforce the knowledge about the health hazards of smoking.
DISCLOSURE: Raghu Reddy, No Product/Research Disclosure Information; No Financial Disclosure Information