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.
This student survey is designed to help you launch your tobacco prevention unit and generate class discussion about tobacco. But first, be sure to read the Overview Booklet for Grades 5–9. It provides all the information you need to know to successfully implement this material.
Part One of the activity 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.
Part Two of the Survey includes open-ended questions that ask students what they think or know about the prevalence and health consequences of tobacco use, quitting, and why young people use tobacco.
Once you have completed all activities, please delete or dispose of all student tobacco surveys.
Collectively, the two-part survey will give you insight into your students’ perceptions about tobacco use and their prior knowledge of the facts, which can help you more effectively implement the unit and address their questions and concerns. Once students complete the survey, use the facts listed in the answer key to help dispel misperceptions students may have about tobacco use, and to reinforce the message that most young people are tobacco free. Since the survey asks students about their personal experience with tobacco, it should be done independently and anonymously. Tell students to input your email when asked. The anonymous results will be sent directly to you. The topics presented in the survey will be addressed throughout the program materials. For example, students will be provided with facts related to the health consequences of tobacco use. In addition, they will be given information about why some adolescents use tobacco, and why most choose to remain tobacco free. They will also be provided with refusal skill techniques that they can use if they are ever pressured to use tobacco.
Before starting the activity, explain to your class that they are going to take a survey that asks them questions about tobacco to help you understand what they know or think about it. To begin, ask students:
Direct students to the online survey by clicking the thumbnail below. We recommend emailing the link to your students, posting it on a class webpage, projecting it on an interactive whiteboard, and/or writing it on a chalkboard. Tell students the survey will be entirely anonymous. Explain that no personally identifying information will be included in emails sent to you. Encourage students to answer the questions as honestly as they can.
Once they are done, let students know that you are going to share some information with them. They can listen and should feel free to volunteer answers if they feel comfortable. Once you have completed all activities, please delete or dispose of all student tobacco surveys.
1–4. Answers will vary. Review the answers students provided for these questions. This will give you a sense of your students’ experience with tobacco, but should not be shared with the students.
5. 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,”3 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.
6. Explain to students that according to the Surgeon General, symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, nausea, and phlegm production can start to develop in young people who smoke.3 Moreover, students may 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”:
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.3
Answers will vary, but share the following with your students.
1. Most middle schoolers do not smoke: 2% are current cigarette smokers, which means 98% are not.1 (Current is defined as having used tobacco on at least one day in the 30 days preceding the survey.)
2. Ask students to volunteer answers about why they think young people use tobacco. Explain to your students that some of the reasons young people try tobacco are:3, 4
Ask students: Why do you think most young people do not use tobacco? Explain that most people choose to be tobacco free. Some reasons include:3, 4, 5
3. 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.
4. Again, answers will vary. Write students’ answers on the board, and explain to them that they are going to learn more about health consequences in Activity Two.
6. Answers will vary. However, explain to your students that according to a poll, most kids strongly dislike being around smokers.6
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.
Let students know that you don’t expect them to know the answer to this question and they should just take a guess. Afterward, ask volunteers to share their answers. Reinforce that only 6 out of 100 middle schoolers are current cigarette smokers. To end the lesson, display the “Tobacco: Myth or Reality?” poster and review the content with your students. The poster will reinforce the message that most young people are tobacco free.
For additional information on factors that influence young people to either abstain from or experiment with tobacco, review the Overview Booklet.