Tobacco Use & Prevention

Tobacco Use Is Still the Leading Cause of Preventable Death

Tobacco use continues to be the number one cause of preventable death in the United States and around the world. Tobacco killed one hundred million people worldwide in the 20th century and is on track to kill one billion people in the 21st century.1

In the US, tobacco use kills about 480,000 people per year — more than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, illegal drugs, homicides, and suicides combined.2
Tobacco Graph

The Role of SBHCs in Tobacco Use Prevention & Education

School-based health centers (SBHCs) and wellness centers can help prevent tobacco use in students through health education and are well-positioned to provide tobacco cessation services.

  • One of the unique advantages of a SBHC is its ability to go beyond the provision of clinical medical services and engage in public health activities at the schoolwide level.
  • SBHC staff provide health education in classrooms, conduct schoolwide screenings, hold youth and parent education groups, and work with school staff to identify high-risk students.
  • This ability of SBHCs to fuse clinical care and public health makes them well-suited for many prevention activities, such as tobacco prevention and cessation.

Peer education programs have demonstrated effectiveness in preventing youth tobacco use.3

  • Young people are more receptive to tobacco prevention messages delivered by their peers than those delivered by their teachers.4,5
  • For the peer educators, providing tobacco prevention education to their friends provides an opportunity for positive youth development.5
  • SBHCs who are already providing group education should consider peer programs as a way to enhance the effectiveness of their prevention education.

Tobacco Use Is Typically Started & Established During Adolescence

  • Approximately 90% of adult smokers tried their first cigarette before age 18 and nearly 700 children become regular smokers each day. 6
  • E-cigarettes, including vapes, e-pens, e-pipes, and e-hookah, are known collectively as electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and are the most commonly used tobacco product among high school and middle school students. While cigarette use is on the decline, middle and high school students’ use of e-cigarettes has increased exponentially, with 1 in 10 middle and high school students reported having used e-cigarettes, according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey.7
  • 14.1% of high school students (1 in 7) and 3.3% (or 1 in 30) of middle school students reported current e-cigarette use.8

Case Study