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May 9th, 2008:

How Peer Pressure Can Prevent Teenagers Smoking

May 9 2008 by Madeleine Brindley, Western Mail

TEEN smoking can be reduced by training popular secondary school pupils to spread anti-smoking messages.

The scheme, which was developed by experts in Cardiff, could reduce the number of teen smokers in the UK by 43,000 every year.

Research into the effect of the Assist (A Stop Smoking in Schools Trial) programme, which is published today in The Lancet, comes as teen smoking rates – particularly among girls – remain high in Wales.

The latest figures suggest that more than a quarter of children under 16 smoke – 27.5% of girls aged 15 and 16 in Wales smoke. It is thought that many children only choose to smoke if their friends already do.

But peer-pressure can also have a positive impact and result in some children deciding to remain smoke-free.

Professor Laurence Moore, director of the Cardiff Institute of Society, Health and Ethics, which developed the Assist programme, said: “A lot of time and effort goes into encouraging children not to take up regular smoking in schools but that generally hasn’t been found to be particularly effective as often kids will do the opposite of what their teachers tell them.

“With the rise in social networking websites, we know that kids are much more responsive to messages they get from their peers.”

The Assist training programme involves initially asking pupils to nominate influential students in their year group.

The most popular – those who are respected by their peers and are considered to be good leaders – were recruited and trained as peer supporters.

They were then asked to have conversations with other students in their year group about the benefits of not smoking over a 10-week period.

The research into the Assist programme was done in 59 schools across Wales and western England among pupils aged 12 and 13 – 30 schools received the Assist training programme while the remainder continued their normal smoking cessation programmes.

The researchers, from Cardiff University and the University of Bristol, found that students were 25% less likely to take up regular smoking immediately after the Assist project had been run in their school; 23% less likely to start regular smoking after one year and 15% less likely after two years.

In schools using conventional smoking-cessation programmes, 21% were less likely to smoke immediately after; 25% after one year and 15% after two years.

The Assist programme will be rolled out to 49 Welsh schools this year .

New Guidelines For Treatment Of Tobacco Dependence Released

Medical News Today | Friday, 9-May-2008

The U.S. Public Health Service today released an updated version of the clinical guidelines for treating tobacco dependence. Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2008 Update contains strategies and recommendations designed to guide doctors and other medical professionals to help smokers quit.

The guidelines, updated for the first time since 2000, call attention to the need for clinicians to understand that there are multiple effective treatment options for tobacco dependence. The guidelines emphasize the benefits of group and individual counseling sessions and the use of medications in helping smokers to be successful in their quit attempt. There is also new evidence of the need to consider tobacco use as a chronic disease and to treat it as such through multiple interventions. The guidelines highlight the need for tobacco dependence treatment strategies to be integrated into the health care system as there is new evidence that health care policies, such as insurance that covers tobacco dependence treatment as a benefit, impact the likelihood that smokers will receive effective treatment and successfully quit smoking.

Tobacco use remains world’s most preventable cause of death, claiming the lives of 438,000 Americans each year and millions more globally. Smoking accounts for at least 30 percent of all cancer deaths and 87 percent of lung cancer deaths. It is associated with an increased risk of at least 15 types of cancer.

There are 45 million smokers in the U.S. and 70 percent of them say they would like to quit smoking,” said John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society. “This updated clinical guideline on the treatment of tobacco dependence provides physicians and other health care providers, administrators and insurers, and smokers themselves, with clear, useful information on how to stop smoking and stay tobacco-free. It is critical that clinicians utilize these guidelines to stay current on the latest information that will help their patients to quit and to do so successfully. The Society is proud to endorse this important resource in the fight to reduce tobacco use.”

The American Cancer Society offers smokers who want to quit a clinically proven, confidential, free telephone-based counseling program, Quitline. Quitline is available in 12 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in more than 100 businesses and health plans nationwide. Since its inception in 2000, Quitline has provided support to more than 320,000 smokers. Studies have shown that more than 40 percent of people who were contacted six months after completing the Quitline program remained smoke-free, putting the Society’s quit rates among the highest in the country. Smokers who are seeking to quit can reach Quitline toll-free at 1-800-ACS-2345 or can log onto to embark on a personal plan to quit.

The American Cancer Society is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by saving lives, diminishing suffering, and preventing cancer through research, education, advocacy, and service. Founded in 1913 and with national headquarters in Atlanta, the Society has 13 regional Divisions and local offices in 3,400 communities, involving millions of volunteers across the United States.