An Online Learning Module Focused on Smoking Education and Prevention for College Students: Implications for College Health Instructors and Allied Health Professionals

Article excerpt

The purpose of this research was to pilot-test the effectiveness of an online learning module focused on smoking for an undergraduate general education fitness and wellness course. Students enrolled in a required fitness and wellness course were given the opportunity to participate. Participants (n = 510) completed a brief demographic questionnaire and a 10-question pretest about the effects of smoking before viewing a 15-minute presentation about the effects of smoking and completing the same 10 questions as a post-test. Repeated measures ANOVAs were conducted to evaluate knowledge gains. An overall time effect was observed (pretest score 4.9 ± 1.3, post-test score 7.2 ± 2.1). Significantly greater knowledge gains were found in nonsmokers (2.1 ± 2.2) than in smokers (1.1 ± 2.2). Females (2.3 ± 2.3) had significantly greater knowledge gains than males (1.5 ± 2.2). Evidence supporting the effectiveness of the online learning module included significant knowledge gains for both smokers and nonsmokers, and the participants who smoked agreed the online learning module encouraged them to quit. In this research, students were also grouped by major (health-related majors vs non-health-related). There were 118 health-related majors in the sample, with 110 of those students completing the entire learning module. In this research, a learning module for college students was developed, but practical applications are provided not only for college health instructors but also for allied health professionals. J Allied Health 2010; 39:43-48.

TWENTY PERCENT of deaths in United States are attributed to smoking.1 Recent studies have found that smoking rates in college students (aged 18 to 22 yrs) ranged from 30 to 37%.2-5 In the 90s, increased awareness and education led to declining smoking rates in most age groups, except for 18 to 24 years.6 Unfortunately, smoking in college students continues to be a serious public health issue with more than one third of college students partaking in a behavior with potentially deadly consequences.

Because of this, the smoking habits of college students have been the focus of much research. Studies focused on college students examined the prevalence,3,4,7,8 predictors,2 and determinants of cigarette smoking.9 While these researchers reported a range of smoking rates in college students, they agreed that gender was not a notable predictor of smoking status. Researchers have also examined cigarette smoking interventions and cessation programs with varying findings regarding their efficacy.10-14

Trends indicate that students who enter college as nonsmokers may leave college as smokers. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the rate of cigarette smoking increases until age 20, where the rate peaks at 44.1%.5 The use of tobacco products is most prevalent in young adults (ages 18 to 24). Estimates place the rate of cigarette use in this population at 25.3%, while the rate of total tobacco product use is 44-8%.5,15 Traditional full-time college students range in age from 18 to 22. Since smoking rates rise until age 20 and the majority of smokers aged 18 to 24 (60.7%) began smoking after the age of 16, the college years are a pivotal time in the fight to prevent tobacco use in America.15

While some students are already smokers at the start of their undergraduate careers, others arrive at college unarmed with the knowledge and skills to avoid tobacco use. Because most college students use computers and the Internet for both personal and academic tasks, the tools may already be in place to prevent and intervene with tobacco use in these populations. Tobacco prevention and interventions are available both online and in traditional face-to-face classes, however the issue of how to get college students to access and use these resources remains.

Researchers have examined web-based health promotion and education and found them to be an effective means of delivering information. …