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Classroom animation tobacco awareness program effectiveness

Institution: WestEd
Investigator(s): Barbara Dietsch, Ph.D. Lynne Dibble, BS, MA Timothy Kordic, Diane Schwartz, M.A.
Award Cycle: 2004 (Cycle 13) Grant #: 13HT-3201 Award: $463,718
Subject Area: Tobacco-Use Prevention and Cessation
Award Type: Full SARA

Initial Award Abstract
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable morbidity and mortality in California and the United States. Adolescent smoking rates in California have declined since 1994 with less than 20% of high school students currently smoking and less than 5% smoking daily. Although the rates for current smoking are declining, self-reports of ever smoking a whole cigarette was much higher in 9th graders at 20% compared to 7% of 7th graders. This indicates that students are experimenting with tobacco more as they get older. There are very few innovative, research-based, school programs available to teachers. This limits the options for teachers to provide prevention lessons that engage students in the decision making process to make healthful lifestyle choices and ultimately remain tobacco-free.

This study tests the long-term effectiveness of an innovative classroom animation program, Classroom Animation Studio (CAS) in 20 of the 77 Los Angeles Unified School District middle schools. Bandura's (1977) Social Learning Theory provides the primary theoretical foundation for the CAS, while the youth development model based on Emmy Werner's research on resilience provides the integrated framework for program activities. The specific research questions are: What do the 7th graders who are beginning to experiment with tobacco look like with regard to other behaviors? How do we reach them? and How do we stop the progression to regular use that we see between 7th and 9th grade?

The CAS was developed to teach students about tobacco use through the use of animation in 12 classroom-based lessons. Students work in groups to discuss tobacco-related issues that face adolescents today. It was designed to be school-based, easy to use, and engage students in decision-making and critical thinking about the consequences of tobacco use. By the end of the 12th lessons, students have completed artwork for an animated public service announcement that will be put onto video to be shared with peers and family members. It has been pilot-tested with 6th, 7th and 10th grade students and received very positive comments from teachers about the usefulness as a teaching tool and how it immediately involved students in discussions about tobacco.

We anticipate that the findings from this study will enhance the knowledge about what works to help adolescents make the decision be non-smokers. If the findings confirm what other studies using social influences strategies with peer leaders have shown, the intervention will be marketed and supported throughout the state, providing California middle school teachers with an inexpensive, off-the-shelf prevention program that engages youth in the learning process. At the same time, the study will contribute to the research base of knowledge about adolescent acquisition of tobacco use, and about factors that help explain why a program works for some students and not others.