Academic journal article High School Journal

A Phenomenological Study of Student Experiences with Tobacco Use at City High School

Academic journal article High School Journal

A Phenomenological Study of Student Experiences with Tobacco Use at City High School

Article excerpt

On April 14th, two video cameras recorded approximately fifty students walking out the doors of City High School (CHS). It was third period, 8:35 a.m., and these students were going to "the hill." The hill consists of the sidewalk west of the school which is off school property. Smoking on the hill became a student ritual at City High when all tobacco products were banned from the school. The video cameras were installed by the administration at CHS in response to growing pressure from the neighborhood to reduce loitering students in the area. Other previous interventions had involved random checks by a local police officer, tickets and fines, and repeated hassling by campus security. For the most part the students were able to ignore these measures as enforcement was sporadic at best. Some tickets were paid, some were ignored, and students moved from place to place successfully evading security. But when they found out they were being videotaped smoking, the students were outraged. They stated clearly and repeatedly that they perceived this as a violation of their right to privacy, and some students even tried to organize a school walk-out.

One interesting characteristic of this episode is the way students overtly flaunted their tobacco using in the face of less threatening interventions, but became outraged when those measures escalated to the use of videotape. Various attempts by CHS administrators to restrict student tobacco use resulted in either students circumventing their efforts or becoming so angry that they wanted to boycott the whole educational system. This episode illustrates how interventions targeted at adolescent populations can fail to produce the intended result: the prevention and reduction of teenage tobacco use. The question remains how to effectively translate that concern into interventions that are successful.

Over 16 million of our nation's children will become smokers. If current smoking patterns persist, over 5 million of these children will ultimately die a premature death due to smoking related illnesses (Centers for Disease Control, 1996). Smoking has been identified as the single most important modifiable cause of premature death in the United States (Department of Health and Human Services, 1994). Sadly, we have made little progress in this area: smoking initiation rates among adolescents are the same today as they were ten years ago (Johnston, O'Malley, & Bachman, 1996). Smokeless tobacco rates continue to rise in rural states such as Nebraska as well. Almost one third of male high school students in the state are regular users of smokeless tobacco (Nebraska Health and Human Services System, 1998).

Interventions at several levels have been directed at preventing youth tobacco use. These have included legislative efforts to tax and restrict youth access to tobacco products; limitations on tobacco advertising; and community based public health campaigns. The role of schools in preventing adolescent tobacco use is a critical element in this overall strategy. School based programs have been successful in delaying and reducing the initiation of tobacco use among adolescents (Bruvold, 1993; Elder, Wildey, & deMoor, 1993; Hansen, Johnson, Flay, Phil, Graham, & Sobel, 1988). However, interventions have focused primarily on incorporating topics about tobacco use into courses, while the importance of informal messages communicated by the overall school environment has been largely ignored (Ross, 1995). Clearly, there is more that schools could do to address tobacco use among students, and to use interventions less repressive than ticketing, videotaping, and campus security.

Before planning any future school-based intervention, a research team comprised of University personnel and a teacher from City High felt that the school should consult students about the meaning they ascribed to tobacco use. Thus, this study was undertaken to better understand how students (i. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.