Prevention of the onset of smoking during the school year is a major focus of the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program (TPEP). Most people who start smoking are younger than 18, and many begin tobacco use before high school. It is critical to provide tobacco prevention education to students in elementary through high school because impressions about tobacco use are formed and developed during this period. [Research has shown that school-based tobacco prevention programs can significantly reduce or delay adolescent smoking by identifying the social influences promoting tobacco use and by teaching youth the skills to resist such influences. Although the effect may dissipate over time, the effectiveness of these programs is strengthened by booster sessions and community-wide programs (involving parents and community organizations) that address school policies, mass media, and restrictions on youth access.]
TPEP blends its efforts to prevent youth initiation and promote youth cessation through school- based activities, community-based activities, services for teachers with the Department of Education, and tobacco-free policy promotion in the University of Hawai'i system.
School-based activities vary in their approach to building a tobacco-free environment for youth. An ongoing activity is the TPEP involvement in effecting system-wide changes involving policy. An inter-agency workgroup was formed to implement tobacco-free policy in the schools after legislative changes were made to close a loophole in an administrative rule. [In 1993, Hawai'i Administrative Rule 8-31-3 was passed to prohibit smoking on Department of Education campuses. However, it was unenforceable, especially after unions obtained exemptions for their members. Not only did adult smokers set negative examples for students, but it was sometimes difficult to distinguish older students from employees. In May 2004, Act 87 was passed to tighten the law, disallowing union members from smoking on campus.] The Department of Education, the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, and the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawai'i are only some of the groups involved in developing recommendations for enforcing the updated policy. The recommendations include (1) offering cessation materials to all schools statewide and (2) developing new signage.
A second ongoing activity is the promotion of a tobacco curriculum based on standards (i.e., Centers for Disease Control guidelines and the Hawai'i Health Content and Performance Standards from the Department of Education). The TPEP contribution has been the provision of training at conferences and the placement of materials meeting the standards online:
Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down, a third ongoing activity, is a media literacy project through which students learn how smoking depicted in movies can influence their own decisions about smoking. TPEP provides student participants with free movie passes in order to see a movie and write a movie review. TPEP also provides training on how to write a movie review (by an English or journalism teacher) and how to count incidents of smoking (by the TPEP Youth Education Coordinator). The reviews are published in the school newspaper, a mode of peer education. In addition, a press conference is held annually to recognize student participants.
Teen Video Awards, sponsored by the Hawai'i Medical Service Association (HMSA) for middle school and high school students, teaches youth how to write public service announcements (PSAs). Topics include tobacco, alcohol, drugs, and general health. TPEP provides financial and technical assistance to this event, promotes it, and provides training with respect to the tobacco topic. TPEP also buys air time for the award-winning tobacco spots, providing recognition to youth for expressing well the tobacco-free message.
The Youth Initiation Prevention and Cessation Unit is responsible for the planning and overall coordination of community-based events, enabling participating groups to take action. Although these are a combination of student and community efforts, activities are also carried out at the school level. Three national/international events are celebrated locally each year: the Great American Smoke-Out, Kick Butts Day, and World No Tobacco Day. TPEP supports the schools in these celebrations by providing them with resources (i.e., information on the date of the event, theme, materials, and incentives) and encouraging youth to participate by promoting the events in the schools. Celebration activities have included the following:
Rally at the State Capitol attended by students statewide
Sign-waving by youth (i.e., street marketing)
Presentations at schools
Tobacco-free dance event
Choreography and performance of dances promoting the tobacco-free message
Rally in memory of victims of tobacco use or exposure
Single events have been supported by TPEP. A youth summit was conducted in (month,year) to encourage youth and provide them with information (i.e., basic tobacco education) and skills (i.e., youth advocacy and leadership) to participate in anti-tobacco community events. TPEP also invited a media literacy expert to Hawai'i in (month,year) to educate youth about tobacco issues (e.g., how youth are targeted by tobacco companies) and on how to think critically (i.e., process and analyze information before arriving at a conclusion or decision).
Support to Educators
TPEP supports the Department of Education by providing tobacco training to its teachers at the “Annual Health Celebration for Health and PE Teachers,” a statewide conference. It also provides training at spring workshops, updating teachers about providing the most current tobacco education materials available.
TPEP promotes the tobacco-free policy at the university level within the University of Hawai'i (UH) system by working with the UH to develop strategies to prevent tobacco use by college students, providing signage, and providing information (e.g., posters) about the anti-tobacco policy for dissemination to students.