Tobacco use: baseline results from pathways to health, a school-based project for southwestern American Indian youth.

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BACKGROUND: This paper describes a school-based cancer prevention project for fifth- and seventh-grade Navajo and Pueblo Indian children living in the Southwest. Baseline data are presented from 714 students who completed questionnaires on smoking and smokeless tobacco.

METHODS: Questionnaires were administered in the fifth- and seventh-grade classrooms prior to students receiving the Pathways to Health cancer prevention curriculum.

RESULTS: In our sample there were increases from fifth to seventh grade in self-reported current cigarette use and intention to use. Also, boys were more likely to use and intend to use cigarettes than girls. The use of smokeless tobacco also increased with increasing grade level, though this trend was less pronounced for girls. A significant gender difference was found in the use of smokeless tobacco with boys reporting higher use. However, reported use by girls was higher than is typically noted for non-Hispanic white girls.

CONCLUSIONS: There is evidence of experimentation and regular use of tobacco products by both Navajo and Pueblo boys and girls. Even more students indicate intention to use tobacco products in the future. These data confirm the need for primary prevention programs designed for this population of American Indians.