Adapting and testing a UK smoking prevention intervention

Published 2nd May 2022

Professor Sharon Simpson is leading a new project to assess whether an intervention called A Stop Smoking In Schools Trial (ASSIST) can be adapted from the UK to the Philippines, China and Indonesia.

Each of these Asian middle-income countries have smoking rates that are high and predicted to increase or remain stable.

The project has been funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC). SPHSU Director, Professor Laurence Moore, and Dr Kate Reid from the School of Education and School of Psychology, University of Glasgow are co-investigators. They will work with researchers from the University of Stirling, Universitas Gadjah Mada (Jogjakarta), Beijing University, and De La Salle University (Manila).  

UK research showed ASSIST was effective in preventing adolescent smoking uptake. The intervention recruits 12-13 year olds who are influential among their school year group as 'peer supporters', to spread messages among their friendship networks via informal conversations about the risks of smoking and benefits of not smoking. ASSIST is relatively low cost, and so may be suitable in lower and middle-income countries, but its informal peer-supporter model may make it less acceptable in countries with more formal or hierarchical school systems. 

The project will assess:

  1. whether ASSIST can be successfully adapted and transferred to one or more of these three (culturally diverse) countries
  2. how easy it would be to run a future large study to test if it works to prevent smoking uptake in one or more of the countries

To do this, in each country:

  • We will continue preliminary consultations on whether and how to refine ASSIST so it is culturally appropriate, but still retains its key elements. 
  • A UK not-for-profit company with experience of ASSIST-related work will run train-the-trainer sessions and support translation of required materials.
  • We will recruit 10 secondary schools; six will be randomly selected as intervention schools (carrying out ASSIST) and, for comparison, four as controls (carrying on as normal).
  • In the intervention schools, ASSIST trainers will run sessions where the whole year-group completes a survey to identify influential students. The highest scoring students will be invited to become peer supporters, attend a two-day training session and act as peer supporters in their school for 10 weeks, supported by the trainers.
  • Researchers will survey the whole year group in all 10 schools before ASSIST and seven months after its completion. The surveys will include measures of smoking and friendship networks. Researchers will observe training sessions and conduct interviews and discussions with the trainers, and students, staff and parents in intervention schools to understand how ASSIST worked (or didn't) in practice. They will also collect data on the costs of ASSIST.

Professor Sharon Simpson said:

“We are delighted to receive this funding from the MRC to assess whether ASSIST can be successfully adapted to schools in China, Indonesia and the Philippines. If our research shows that it is acceptable and feasible, schools support the research and policymakers show interest in providing support for the intervention in one or more of the countries, the next step would be for a larger project with more schools to properly test if it works.”

First published: 4 May 2022

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