Smoking prevention in schools slashes the number of young people who later become smokers, a review has shown.
Published in The Cochrane Library, the review showed that smoking education programmes are effective in young people who have never smoked, for at least a year after implementation.
Smoking prevention programmes aim to tackle smoking at an early age before the habit becomes harder to break.
“This review is important because there are no other comprehensive reviews of world literature on school-based smoking prevention programmes,” said Julie McLellan from the Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford.
“The main strength of the review is that it includes a large number of trials and participants. “
However, McLellan noted that over half of the 428,293 participants, aged 5-18, were from the US.
The researchers analysed data from 134 studies, in 25 different countries, and of these, 49 studies reported smoking behaviour in those who had never previously smoked.
The researchers focused on this group because it offered the clearest indication of whether smoking interventions prevent smoking.
Although there were no significant effects within the first year, in studies with longer follow up the number of smokers was significantly lower in the groups targeted by smoking interventions than in the control group.
In 15 studies which reported on changes in smoking behaviour in a mixed group of never smokers, previous experimenters and quitters, there was no overall long term effect, but within the first year the number smoking was slightly lower in the control group.
No significant effects were detected in those programmes that used information only or that combined tobacco education with wider school and community initiatives.
The abstract of the review is available here, with the full study behind a paywall.