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OBJECTIVES—To evaluate the effectiveness of primary health care teams in maintaining a group of young people aged 10-15 years as non-smokers.
DESIGN—Randomised controlled trial using postal questionnaires.
SUBJECTS—2942 young people who were initially self declared non-smokers.
INTERVENTION—Information about smoking, sent under signature of the subject's general practitioner, certificates and posters intended to reinforce non-smoking behaviour.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES—Changes in smoking behaviour, attitudes measured after one year.
RESULTS—After a year, smoking uptake was 7.8% in the control group compared with 5.1% in the intervention group (odds ratio (OR) 1.6, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.1 to 2.2). Among boys the corresponding results were 5.2% and 2.4% (OR 2.3, 95% CI 1.2 to 4.6), and among girls 10.0% and 7.5% (OR 1.4, 95% CI 0.9 to 2.1). Among boys aged 14-15 the uptake rate was 12.8% in the control group compared with 5.4% in the intervention group. However, among girls of the same age the intervention was less effective, with smoking uptake of 15.1% in the control group and 12.8% in the intervention group. The intervention was more effective among young people whose initial attitudes identified them as definite non-smokers than those who were potential smokers.
CONCLUSIONS—The intervention substantially reduced smoking uptake among the young people, particularly boys. Primary health care teams can play an important role in maintaining the non-smoking status of their young patients. Confidential postal contact from the doctor direct to the young person at home is influential and cost-effective.
Keywords: smoking initiation; smoking prevention; young people; primary care