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Embedding a smoking prevention measure in UK schools

Professor Mark Conner, School of Psychology, Faculty of Medicine and Health

Responsive Mode Impact Fund

Smoking remains an important health problem. The majority of smoking initiation takes place in adolescence and the greatest positive impact on population health is associated with stopping adolescents ever starting smoking. We have developed a simple, effective and cost-effective school-based intervention to reduce smoking initiation in adolescents. The intervention involves presenting anti-smoking messages and getting adolescents to specify plans about how to refuse offers of a cigarette on multiple occasions. Several published studies using gold standard methods (randomised controlled trials) show the intervention to be effective (an odds ratio of 0.80 here versus 0.78 in the comparable ASSIST trial; this equates to reducing smoking initiation by 7%). In order to realise health benefits this intervention needs to be rolled out across as many schools as possible. Doing so requires the development of a website of intervention and training materials, and working with those who might use the interventions (i.e., schools and tobacco-control commissioners within Local Authorities) and an appropriate brand. The project will involve the academics who developed the intervention working with a not-for-profit company with considerable experience in this area (Evidence to Impact) to achieve these goals and ensure the intervention helps reduce adolescent smoking initiation rates. Its success will also contribute to reducing health inequalities (including child poverty), as well as having a positive impact on NHS spending on smoking-related illness in the medium and long term.

Professor Mark Conner can be contacted by email: