ERIC Identifier: ED408371
Publication Date: 1997-03-00
Author: Schwartz, Wendy
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Urban Education New York NY.
Smoking Prevention Strategies for Urban and Minority Youth. ERIC/CUE Digest, Number 120.
Overall, the number of adolescents who smoke and use smokeless tobacco is
decreasing, and the decrease is sharpest among minority youth. Still, about
one-third of high school students use tobacco products. Adolescents living in
disadvantaged urban areas suffer from many of the stresses shown to increase
tobacco use. In addition to experiencing the health problems associated with
tobacco use, young smokers are at greater risk for trying alcohol and other
drugs (Kaufman, Jason, Sawlski, & Halpert, 1994; Preventing, 1994; Trends,
The decline in the number of adolescent smokers is largely the result of
intensive multi-pronged anti-tobacco campaigns. These strategies have been most
effective with white, middle-class adolescents, the result of the failure to
create campaigns convincing to the African American, Latino, and urban youth who
still might be inclined to smoke (Cella, Tulsky, Sarafian, Thomas, & Thomas,
1992). New Federal regulations governing cigarette sales and advertising to
youth are being phased in, and they are expected to steepen the decline in youth
tobacco use. Currently, urban areas are the site of many new prevention
strategies targeted to special populations. This digest provides an overview of
RISK FACTORS FOR YOUTH SMOKING
Adolescents smoke for many of the same reasons that they use
alcohol and other drugs. Urban community disorganization, crime, violence,
poverty, and inadequate schools can lead to a variety of problems for youth,
smoking included. Personal factors that put youth at risk for smoking addiction
include the following (Gardner, Green, & Marcus, 1994; Preventing, 1994;
*Inadequate life skills; victimization; emotional and psychological problems;
and lack of self-control, assertiveness, and peer refusal skills.
*Lack of school involvement, academic failure, and dropping out.
*Antisocial conduct, such as gang participation; rejection of commonly held
values; and association with others who exert a negative influence.
*Premature pregnancy and parenthood.
*Family homelessness, poverty, stress, lack of cohesion and supervision,
conflict, and violence.
*Parental and sibling use of cigarettes, alcohol, and other drugs; and
inadequate disapproval of substance use.
TOBACCO COMPANY ADVERTISING
Tobacco companies assert
publicly that minors should not smoke. However, to offset the overall decline in
smoking, companies have stepped up their efforts to "influence kids who are 14" and at a susceptible time in their lives, as acknowledged by one advertising
executive. Advertisements feature young, attractive, and successful people, and
companies sponsor youth sporting and rock music events (Preventing, 1994; Carol,
1988). African Americans are specially targeted, with black magazines receiving
disproportionately more revenues from cigarette advertising than other consumer
magazines. Billboards advertising tobacco products are seen four to five times
more frequently in communities of color than in white areas (African Americans,
Federal regulations will ban tobacco marketing targeted to youth by mid-1998,
but general tobacco campaigns will still reach adolescents, particularly in
communities of color where advertising is heaviest.
EFFECTIVE ANTI-SMOKING EDUCATION
components of tobacco prevention education have been identified. They cover the
following points (Carol, 1988; Flynn et al., 1992; California, 1993, Lerner,
SMOKING IS NOT PERSONALLY OR SOCIALLY DESIRABLE. Dispel the myths that
tobacco is functional for stress reduction, weight maintenance, and social
enhancement. Point out that the places where smoking is acceptable are
decreasing. Many adolescents, unwilling to risk the health hazards from
second-hand smoke, do not want to be near smokers.
SMOKING TAKES AWAY A SMOKER'S FREE CHOICE. Since adolescents especially
desire autonomy over all areas of their lives, demonstrate how tobacco addiction
takes away free will, particularly the ability to stop smoking.
SMOKING IS NOT AN ADULT HABIT OR AN EFFECTIVE ACT
REBELLION. Point out that only 27 percent of adults smoke-evidence that
smoking is not a prevalent sign of maturity. Adolescents who want to rebel
against those seeking to control them should resist the lure of tobacco
companies and their advertising agencies, not non-smoking adults.
SMOKING DESTROYS GOOD HEALTH. Show the probable physical effects of smoking
in full detail.
MOST TEENAGERS DO NOT SMOKE AND IT IS OKAY TO REFUSE
SMOKE. Point out that fewer than 20 percent of teenagers smoke regularly,
and in California only 5 percent do so. Youth who begin to smoke because their
peers do are really succumbing to perceived pressures from a minority. Help
teenagers develop "refusal skills" to give them the courage to refuse to engage
in behaviors they may not choose.
ANTI-SMOKING POLICIES, PROGRAMS, AND PRACTICES
anti-tobacco education is best presented through a variety of strategies.
Ideally, it begins early in children's lives, because on average youth smoke
their first cigarette at age 13 (Lerner, 1997).
Anti-smoking initiatives that are created by, or at least involve, youth are
most effective. These are a few examples of programs that have captured urban
youth's attention (Cella et al., 1992; Gardner et al., 1994; Rainwater & De
Caprio, 1994; Beales, 1997):
*The American Lung Association's anti-smoking, parent participation
curriculum, with a multicultural video.
*The Detroit Urban League's "Male Responsibility: Lifepower" program, a rites
of passage program for African American youth.
*California's "Richmond Quits Smoking Project," a rap video using
multicultural models that teaches refusal skills.
*The "take back the community" project, an action to whitewash billboards
with cigarette ads in Harlem, New York.
*The Boston Young Latinas Substance Abuse Prevention Project, which helps
girls age 10-14 develop good health habits and positive social skills.
*California's Project Able, which provides information about smoking and
other dangers through short plays written in street language and performed for
As the Federal restrictions on the sale and marketing of tobacco to youth are
being phased in, similar-and even more stringent-steps to deter youth can be
taken locally. Initiatives include the following (Flynn et al., 1992;
California, 1993; Rainwater & De Caprio, 1994; Gardner et al., 1994;
Preventing, 1994; Kaufman et al., 1994):
*Designate schools as smoke-free places, and prevent
the nearby sale and use of cigarettes.
*Infuse an anti-tobacco message into many courses, not just health education.
*Create, publicize, and uniformly enforce clear rules regarding student
*Provide intensive staff training in anti-smoking education.
*Develop an anti-tobacco advertising campaign and
request free print placement and air time. Use models and premises that appeal
to youth and reflect their cultures.
*Incorporate anti-tobacco education into all youth programs.
*Incorporate anti-smoking strategies to use with children into all types of
*Provide anti-smoking education along with other services in adolescent
*Provide addiction recovery services to adolescent smokers.
*Prevent the sale of cigarettes to youth and the display of tobacco
*Develop leaders and promote community bonding, cultural pride, and
bicultural competence by youth.
*Establish homes as smoke-free places. Do not smoke,
if possible, or at least provide an anti-smoking education.
*Provide children with good supervision and support.
*Remind older children that they are role models for younger family members,
and that many youth begin to smoke because their older siblings do.
*Take a parenting skills course to learn how to provide an anti-smoking and
refusal skills education at home.
Although tobacco use by adolescents has been
decreasing, there is some evidence that youth are getting caught up in the
current cigar-smoking fad, created by celebrities and fueled by positive media
stories. In addition, smoking promotions are prevalent on the Internet. Thus,
anti-smoking initiatives must be maintained, updated, and perhaps even
intensified. The most effective interventions for urban youth provide an
anti-tobacco education continuously and consistently from grade school to high
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