This section includes a survey to determine students' perceptions about tobacco, their understanding of its effects, and their experience with it. In addition, it includes activities to educate students about the health consequences of tobacco use.
Part One of the survey asks students about their experiences with tobacco. It consists of questions taken from the CDC’s National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) 2004 Questionnaire—a survey that can be used to estimate current use of tobacco products and selected indicators related to tobacco use among U.S. middle school and high school students. These surveys are periodically done by the government to assess tobacco use. The complete survey and reports are available online here.
Early adolescence is a time when significant changes in attitudes and behaviors are typical. One of these behaviors may involve experimentation with tobacco.3 At the same time, young people are becoming more independent and may start to spend more time with their friends. They will get a lot of their information (or misinformation) from their friends, potentially causing them to make decisions they will later regret. Teaching students the health consequences of tobacco use in this program is one important way to communicate the facts and help them make the decision to be tobacco free. Since the survey asks students about their personal experience with tobacco, it should be done independently and anonymously. Assure students that no personally identifying information will be included in the survey they email to you.
Before starting the activity, ask your students:
Then, direct students to the online survey in the website by clicking “Launch Activity” below. We recommend emailing the link to your students, posting it on a class web page, projecting it on an interactive whiteboard, and/or writing it on a chalkboard.
Explain to your class that they are going to take a survey about tobacco. Encourage them to answer the questions as honestly as they can. Let them know that the first eight questions ask them about their experience with tobacco and are only going to be used by you to get a sense of what they have experienced. Tell them the survey will be entirely anonymous and no identifying information will be included in the responses they email to you. Inform students that once they have finished the survey, you will share some information with them related to Part Two. Explain that being informed is an important element of making the right decisions. Then, let students know that they will learn facts about tobacco use and tips for coping with peer pressure in this unit, “Keeping Healthy.”
Once the survey is complete, share with your students the facts listed in the answer key part of the “Wrapping Up” section to dispel misperceptions they may have about tobacco use, and to reinforce the message that most young people are tobacco free. Also, encourage students to volunteer answers during your discussion if they feel comfortable.
Answers will vary. Review the answers students provided for questions 1–8. This will give you a sense of your students’ experience with tobacco, but it should not be shared with the students.
1–8. Explain to students that most young people do not smoke. Studies show that only about 2.3% of middle school students and 9.3% of high school students in this country are current cigarette smokers, while 6% of high school males and 2% of middle school males are current smokeless tobacco users.1 (Current is defined as having used tobacco on at least one day in the 30 days preceding the survey.) Point out to students that the younger people are when they start smoking, the more likely they are to become addicted.4
4. Ask students if they want to volunteer answers about why young people use tobacco. Note their answers on the board. Explain to students that some of the reasons young people try or start to use tobacco include: 4, 5
5. Ask students if they want to volunteer answers about why they think young people choose to be tobacco free. Explain that some people may choose to be tobacco free because: 4, 5
6–7. Explain to students that some young people try tobacco because of a “lack of self-efficacy in the ability to refuse offers to use tobacco,”4 or they don’t know how to tell their friends they don’t want to try it.
Explain to students that people their age are sometimes pressured to use tobacco, and that pressure can be difficult to handle. Let them know that in this unit, they are going to learn some ways to say “no” and cope with peer pressure so they can be tobacco free.
If students volunteer stories, remind them not to use names. Listen to their concerns and explain to students that feeling pressure from friends happens, but that they will learn some ways to deal with the pressure.
8. Explain to students that there are health consequences related to tobacco use. According to the Surgeon General, symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, nausea, and phlegm production can develop in young people who smoke.4 Tell them that they will learn more about the health consequences in Activities 2 and 3. If students want to volunteer answers, write them on the board and then revisit the list when you read Activity 2.
9. Students might have heard that quitting tobacco is difficult, but they may not know why. Read to your students the following passage from the Surgeon General’s Report “Preventing Tobacco Use Among Young People”:4
Most young people who smoke regularly are already addicted to nicotine, and they experience this addiction in a manner and severity similar to what adult smokers experience. Most adolescent smokers report that they would like to quit smoking and that they have made numerous, usually unsuccessful attempts to quit. Many adolescents say that they intend to quit in the future and yet prove unable to do so. Those who try to quit smoking report withdrawal symptoms similar to those reported by adults.4
Students will learn more about addiction in Activity Three.
10. Answers will vary. However, explain to your students that a survey of teens reports that 65% of teens strongly dislike being around smokers.6
For additional information on factors that influence young people to use tobacco and for reasons most of them abstain, review the Overview Booklet.
To end the lesson, display the “Tobacco: Myth or Reality?” poster in the “Materials” section and review the content with your students. The poster will reinforce the message that most young people are tobacco free.
To assist you with evaluating your students’ anonymous responses to this tobacco survey, we have created a data-collection spreadsheet that will allow you to input and view quantitative and qualitative measures. Click here to access the downloadable survey-response spreadsheet. You’ll also find it in the “Materials” section below.
For additional information on factors that influence young people to either abstain from or experiment with tobacco, review the Overview Booklet.