Evidence base

Social learning theory and de-normalisation of smoking

There are many smoking prevention programmes based on the information and fear arousal approach addressing the
long-term negative health consequences of smoking.1,2 However, these programmes show only very limited effects on actual
behaviour and attitudes in young people.3,4 In contrast to the “traditional” approaches, the theoretical foundation of the
Smokefree Class Competition is social learning theory and the de-normalisation of smoking, two of the most influential
approaches in modern prevention research.5,6

Peer influence and normative beliefs

The Smokefree Class Competition is carried out as a class initiative, because peer smoking is one of the most
relevant risk factors for smoking onset in adolescence.7,8

Conducting the competition as a class initiative also serves to strengthen non-smoking as the “normal” behaviour and
to correct false normative beliefs about smoking in pupils.

Focusing on normative behaviour and commitment are evidence-based criteria for successful drug prevention programmes.9

Interactive delivery of the programme

Both, the regular discussions on smoking and further creative class activities in class are interactive ways to address the
subject non-smoking. Pupils are not merely informed about the harmful effects on smoking but encouraged to engage themselves
in creative activities to learn more about smoking, motives for smoking onset and environmental, physical and ecological
consequences of smoking.

A meta-analyses based on 207 studies showed that interactive learning has the best effects on smoking prevention in youth.10

In summary, the initiative is based on broad evidence on successful drug prevention methods.


  1. Hansen WB. School-based substance abuse prevention: a review of the state of the art in curriculum, 1980-1990. Health Educ Res 1992; 7(3):403-430.
  2. Lantz PM, Jacobson PD, Warner KE, Wasserman J, Pollack HA, Berson J et al. Investing in youth tobacco control: a review of smoking prevention and control strategies. Tob Control 2000; 9(1):47-63.
  3. Bruvold WH. A meta-analysis of adolescent smoking prevention programs. Am J Public Health 1993; 83(6):872-880.
  4. Rooney BL, Murray DM. A meta-analysis of smoking prevention programs after adjustment for errors in the unit of analysis. Health Educ Q 1996; 23(1):48-64.
  5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Preventing tobacco use among young people: a report of the Surgeon General. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 1994.
  6. Bandura A. Social cognitive theory: an agentic perspective. Annu Rev Psychol 2001; 52:1-26.
  7. Conrad KM, Flay BR, Hill D. Why children start smoking cigarettes: predictors of onset. Br J Addict 1992; 87(12):1711-1724.
  8. Kobus K. Peers and adolescent smoking. Addiction 2003; 98(Suppl 1):37-55.
  9. Cuijpers P. Effective ingredients of school-based drug prevention programs. A systematic review. Addict Behav 2002; 27(6):1009-1023.
  10. Tobler NC, Roona MR, Ochshorn P, Marshall DG, Streke AV, Stackpole KM. School-based adolescent drug prevention programs: 1998 meta-analysis. J Prim Prev 2000; 20(4):275-336.

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