Azara Blog: Smoking in children is linked with non-"inclusive" school environments

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Date published: 2008/06/20

The BBC says:

Pupils who experience positive and inclusive social environments in school are less likely to take up smoking, according to new research.

A study of high-school children suggested that current school-based anti-smoking interventions were "largely ineffective".

But the Medical Research Council (MRC) found that the wider school environment made a difference.

It looked at more than 5,000 pupils in 24 Scottish schools.

The study was led by Marion Henderson of the MRC social and public health sciences unit in Glasgow.

She said: "The social environment of schools, in particular the quality of teacher-pupil relationships, pupils' attitude to school and the school's focus on caring and inclusiveness, all influence both boys' and girls' smoking habits."
The research showed "school effects" remained even after other factors, such as whether pupils smoked before joining, whether they lived with both parents and how much personal spending money they had, were taken into account.

It's possible this is true. But it just seems like another classic example of confusing correlation with causation. So, for example, are working class kids more likely to smoke than middle class kids? And are middle class kids more likely to attend "inclusive" schools? It seems that the researchers tried to take into account some factors but the article doesn't mention class as being one of the factors. And no doubt the researchers could have found a zillion and one other correlations, but for some reason decided to focus on this specific one, perhaps because they believed it to be true before they started. All in all, it's amazing how much the UK wastes on this kind of research.

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