In Massachusetts, the 84 Movement – funded by the state’s Department of Public Health – trains high school students to deliver anti-tobacco messages to their peers. The initiative is named after the 84 percent of the state’s teens who do not smoke.
“It’s very powerful to have them lead the way,” said Diane Knight, who directs the North Essex Tobacco Free Community Partnership in Massachusetts. “If I go and talk to them about the harmful effects of smoking it is not as effective as them learning, sharing what they know with their peers. It has a greater impact.”
A similar program, DECIPHer IMPACT Ltd., is being expanded in southwest England and Wales after research showed it was effective. The program, a joint project of the Universities of Bristol and Cardiff, trains “influential students” to reduce the number of their peers who start smoking. According to HealthCanal.com, the program could stop over 40,000 teens ages 14-15 from taking up smoking if it were implemented across England.
“Our research has shown that teenagers respond far better to anti-smoking messages from their peers than they do from the Government, the [National Health Service] NHS, their teachers or even their parents,” said Rona Campbell, co-founder of DECIPHer IMPACT and professor at the University of Bristol.
A randomized trial of the program was conducted on 10,730 students in 59 schools. Results were published in The Lancet in May 2008.
Professor Laurence Moore of Cardiff University said that the program could also address other public health problems. “Smoking is our focus at the moment, but the intention is that DECIPHer IMPACT will in the future support the implementation of other effective ways to tackle obesity, alcohol or drug abuse in school children,” he said.