Grades 8 & 9

Keeping Healthy

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.

Activity 1: Take a Tobacco Survey

  • Skills: Assessing risks and consequences
  • Suggested Time Consideration: 25 minutes

The first activity in this unit is a student survey which will enable you to better assess your students’ understanding of and experience with tobacco. It will help you more effectively implement this unit and address students’ questions and concerns. 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.

The topics presented in the survey will be addressed throughout the program materials. For instance, students will be provided with facts related to the health consequences of tobacco use, and learn refusal skills they can use to remain tobacco free.

Survey, Parts One and Two

Part One of the survey asks students about their experience with tobacco. It includes 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 survey and report are available online here.

Part Two of the survey consists mostly of open-ended questions that ask students what they think or know about the prevalence and health consequences of tobacco use, the benefits of quitting, and why some young people use tobacco. Students are also asked if they’ve ever felt pressured to use tobacco.

Once you have completed all activities, please delete or dispose of all student tobacco surveys.

  • Rationale

    Collectively, the two-part survey will give you insight into your students’ experience with tobacco, their perceptions about tobacco use, and their prior knowledge of the facts.

    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.

  • Getting Started

    Before distributing the activity, explain to your class that they are going to take a survey about tobacco. Instruct them that they will also learn facts about tobacco use and tips for coping with peer pressure in this unit.

    Then, direct your students to the online survey in the website by clicking the link below. We recommend emailing the link to them, posting it on a class webpage, projecting it on an interactive whiteboard, and/or writing it on a chalkboard. Remind students that their answers will be anonymous.

    Launch Activity

    Encourage students 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.

    Inform them that once they are done with the survey, you will share some information with them related to Part Two. Explain that being informed is an important element in making the right decisions. Encourage students to volunteer answers if they feel comfortable.

  • Talking About It

    Once the survey is complete, share with your students the facts listed in the answer key part of the “Wrapping Up” section to help dispel misperceptions they may have about tobacco use.

  • Wrapping Up

    ANSWERS, Part One

    Answers will vary. Review the answers students provided for questions 1. This will give you a sense of your students’ experience with tobacco, but should not be shared with the students.

    ANSWERS, Part Two

    1. 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.3

    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: 3, 4

    • They don’t feel good about themselves (low self-esteem and self-image).
    • They don’t know about the health consequences of smokeless tobacco.
    • They think lots of people smoke (overestimating number of people who smoke).
    • They don’t realize that they can become addicted (not understanding the addictive potential of nicotine).

    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: 3, 4

    • Their friends don’t use tobacco.
    • They know about the health consequences.
    • They want to be tobacco free.

    6. Explain to students that some young people try tobacco because of a “clack 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 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 and they will learn more about them in Activities Two and Three. If students want to volunteer answers, write them on the board and then revisit the list when you read Activity Three to see which ones are listed.

    9. Students might have heard that quitting tobacco is difficult, but they may not know why. To illustrate the difficulty of quitting, offer this CDC statistic: “Approximately 70% of adolescent smokers regret ever starting.”5 According to a report from the U.S. Surgeon General, most teens who smoke want to stop.3 But they can’t because “most young people who smoke regularly are already addicted to nicotine.”6 Also let students know that addiction can occur after smoking as few as 100 cigarettes.7 Tell students that they will learn about nicotine’s addictive nature in detail later in the unit.

    10. Answers will vary. However, explain to your students that a survey of teens reports that 65% of teens strongly dislike being around smokers.2

    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.

  • Survey Data Collector

    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.

  • Sources

    1 CDC. Smoking & Tobacco Use. Fact Sheet—Youth and Tobacco Use: Estimates of Current Tobacco Use Among Youth. Referenced 2017.
    2 The American Council on Science and Health(ACSH). The Scoop on Smoking from ACSH: what every teen should know about tobacco. Referenced 2009.
    3 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, Georgia: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; Washington, D.C., 2012. Referenced 2017.
    4 CDC. Guidelines for School Health Programs to Prevent Tobacco Use and Addiction. MMWR 1994; Vol. 43, No. RR-2; 1-18. Referenced 2017.
    5 CDC. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Quitting Smoking Among Adults — United States, 2001—2010, November 11, 2011. Vol. 47, No. 19. Referenced 2017.
    6 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Preventing Tobacco Use Among Young People: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, Georgia: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 1994. Referenced 2017.
    7 Milton, M.H., Maule, C.O., Yee, S.L., Backinger, C., Malarcher, A.M., & Husten, C.G. Youth Tobacco Cessation: A Guide for Making Informed Decisions. Atlanta, Georgia: U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2004. Referenced 2017.
  • Materials

    For additional information on factors that influence young people to either abstain from or experiment with tobacco, review the Overview Booklet.

Grade 8-9 Overview Booklet


Overview Booklet


Wall Poster: Myth or Reality?


Grade 8 and 9: Survey Data Collector