Background: This study examines the effectiveness of the school-based campaign "Smoke-Free Class Competition" as a means of preventing young non-smokers from taking up smoking.
Methods: Based on two measurements of the Heidelberg Children's Panel Study (1998 and 2000), a longitudinal sample of 1704 pupils was examined: 948 in the intervention group and 756 in the control group. In order to evaluate the effects of the intervention, we compared the smoking behavior in the intervention and the control group at two points in time, shortly before, and 18 months after the intervention, on an individual case basis.
Results: (1) Stabilization of never-smoking rates: the proportion of pupils remaining a never-smoker at the follow-up is 62.1% in the intervention group and 61.5% in the control group (OR 1.02, 95% CI: 0.83-1.24); (2) Lowering of relapse rates among ex-smokers: the proportion of former smokers who had not started smoking again in the follow-up is 45.1% in the intervention group and 41.4% in the control group (OR 1.07, 95% CI: 0.77-1.49).
Conclusion: The "Smoke-Free Class Competition" did not prevent smoking among adolescents and does not appear to be an effective substitute to the complete ban of tobacco advertising, the abolition of vending machines and the creation of smoke-free environments in German schools.