Document Type: Research Articles
Program Manager, Public Health, Cancer Care Program, Tata Trusts, India.
Background: Adolescence is an influential stage in students’ lives when lifelong behaviours such as tobacco use are formed. During these years, school teachers are important role models for tobacco control among students. A study was conducted among school personnel and administrators to understand the key drivers for implementing an evidence-based school tobacco control program. Methodology: A cross-sectional, mixed-method study was conducted in five districts of Assam, India. The quantitative study was conducted among 565 school personnel across 40 Government-aided schools. Data was collected by means of an anonymous, self-administered questionnaire. Qualitative data was generated from 15 focus group discussions (FGDs) among 146 participants - District Program Officers, Block Education Officers, Cluster Coordinators, Headmasters and Teachers. Results: While the prevalence of smoked tobacco was low (3%), the use of smokeless tobacco was higher (40%), and the prevalence of use of areca nut without tobacco (65%) was still higher among school personnel. They were aware of the school policies prohibiting the use of tobacco among students within or outside school buildings or during school-sponsored activities (81%); they had rather limited knowledge about policy for themselves (58%). There was lack of access to training materials about prevention of tobacco use among youth. The FGDs amongst school personnel resulted in several constructive suggestions on tobacco control in schools mainly in training school teachers, monitoring the program and incentives for execution of the program. However, there was a reluctance to implement a smokeless tobacco control programme since many were current users of smokeless tobacco and areca nut. Conclusion: Tobacco control policies as well as training school personnel in schools need to improve and further measures must be taken to prohibit use of areca nut, which contains carcinogens. The existing system of the education department can be utilised to implement tobacco control programmes effectively.