Introduction: School-based smoking prevention programmes can be effective, but evidence on cost-effectiveness is lacking. We conducted a cost-effectiveness analysis of a school-based "peer-led" intervention.
Methods: We evaluated the ASSIST (A Stop Smoking In Schools Trial) programme in a cluster randomized controlled trial. The ASSIST programme trained students to act as peer supporters during informal interactions to encourage their peers not to smoke. Fifty-nine secondary schools in England and Wales were randomized to receive the ASSIST programme or usual smoking education. Ten thousand seven hundred and thirty students aged 12-13 years attended participating schools. Previous work has demonstrated that the ASSIST programme achieved a 2.1% (95% CI = 0%-4.2%) reduction in smoking prevalence. We evaluated the public sector cost, prevalence of weekly smoking, and cost per additional student not smoking at 24 months.
Results: The ASSIST programme cost of £32 (95% CI = £29.70-£33.80) per student. The incremental cost per student not smoking at 2 years was £1,500 (95% CI = £669-£9,947). Students in intervention schools were less likely to believe that they would be a smoker at age 16 years (odds ratio [OR] = 0.80; 95% CI = 0.66-0.96).
Conclusions: A peer-led intervention reduced smoking among adolescents at a modest cost. The intervention is cost-effective under realistic assumptions regarding the extent to which reductions in adolescent smoking lead to lower smoking prevalence and/or earlier smoking cessation in adulthood. The annual cost of extending the intervention to Year 8 students in all U.K. schools would be in the region of £38 million and could result in 20,400 fewer adolescent smokers.