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Combating teen smoking: research and policy strategies
  1. N S Jones
  1. nina.jones{at}

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By P D Jacobson, P M Lantz, K E Warner, et al. The University of Michigan Press, 2001.


Not many years ago former US Surgeon General C Everett Koop was participating in a press conference at the Capitol Building in Washington DC. A reporter asked him directly, “why do teenagers smoke?” His answer, in essence, was “ . . .we have no idea, really. It's different for each child. But we need to know and we need to fund research to accomplish it.”

A team of researchers and staff from the School of Public Health, University of Michigan and associated organisations have taken up the challenge of understanding teenage smoking in this publication.

Although written by experts in the field, including Ken Warner, Jeffrey Wasserman and Paula Lantz, Combating teen smoking is laid out in clear, non-technical language. This is not to say that this book is simplistic or incomplete in subject matter. On the contrary, the writers have painstakingly worked to define and illustrate strategies, policies, and procedures. Combating teen smoking would be an excellent textbook for public health students or a first read for those new to the world of tobacco prevention. It would also be an appropriate refresher for those who have been in the field for years.

The chapters cover important subjects such as policy, youth smoking trends, social issues, prevention, cessation, marketing issues, economics, and regulations. Most helpful for those looking for direction, the book provides a lengthy overview of conclusions and recommendations.

As a side note, I suggest that the reader take the time to read the dedication to Ted Klein. It's a wonderful synopsis of a kind and committed supporter.

The authors do not back away from definitive and bold statements. In chapter 4, they state: “ . . .school health education, the quintessential ingredient of youth tobacco control, has contributed little toward discouraging future tobacco experimentation or addiction.” For those who currently provide school based programmes, do not lose heart. Among the authors recommendations is the advice that policy makers “identify innovative programs . . .and allocate funds to expand and evaluate their impact”.

The authors draw strong and thought provoking conclusions, which include the advice to develop cost effective measures for reducing youth smoking initiation rates. “We believe that tobacco control advocates have yet to develop a comprehensive strategy to achieve these longer term goals.” I couldn't agree more. Without strong research and programme implementation, we will not progress, and our children will suffer. Combating teen smoking is an excellent tool to spur us on. Dr Koop, I'm sure, will be very pleased.

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In writing this review, I find little to complain about. The book is lengthy, and although “readable”, hardly something one could zip through in the off hours. The index and references in the back are extremely thorough. Still, although it may be tempting to purchase the book simply to place into one's reference library, I would advise anyone and everyone to read it through from front to back at least once. You will soon agree that it was worth the time.