In response to India's growing tobacco epidemic, strategies are needed to decrease tobacco use among Indian youth, particularly among those who are economically disadvantaged. The objective of this study was to assess the effectiveness of a school-based life-skills tobacco control program for youth of low socio-economic status in Mumbai and the surrounding state of Maharashtra. We hypothesized that compared to youth in control schools, youth exposed to the program would have greater knowledge of effects of tobacco use; be more likely to take action to prevent others from using tobacco; demonstrate more positive life skills and attitudes; and be less likely to report tobacco use.
Using a quasi-experimental design, we assessed program effectiveness by comparing 8th and 9th grade students in intervention schools to 8th grade students in comparable schools that did not receive the program. Across all schools, 1851 students completed a survey that assessed core program components in early 2010. The program consisted of activities focused on building awareness about the hazards of tobacco, developing life skills, and advocacy development. The primary outcome measure was self-reported tobacco use in the last 30 days.
Findings indicate that 4.1% of 8th grade intervention students (OR = 0.51) and 3.6% of 9th grade intervention students (OR = 0.33) reported using tobacco at least once in the last 30 days, compared to 8.7% of students in the control schools. Intervention group students were also significantly more knowledgeable about tobacco and related legislation, reported more efforts to prevent tobacco use among others, and reported stronger life skills and self-efficacy than students in control schools. Limitations to the study include schools not being randomly assigned to condition and tobacco use being measured by self-report.
This program represents an effective model of school-based tobacco use prevention that low-income schools in India and other low- and middle-income countries can replicate.