Community Education

Community education can take place in many settings, from informal community events through to more formal school settings.

Community education for young people

Providing health promotion for primary and secondary school age students is an important way to prevent the uptake of smoking and vaping by youth. The published evidence around addressing vaping comes mainly from mainstream work in the USA and Canada. This evidence suggests that effective population health promotion activities are in line with those currently recommended for educating youth about smoking. There is also evidence that Peer-led programs that leverage social networks make anti-vaping education programs more persuasive and relevant to challenging social influences and changing social norms. This suggests that integrating education about vaping into existing programs and activities with youth is the best approach. However, it is also important to present clear and accurate information about the differences between smoking and vaping.

Source: American Indian Cancer Foundation

Recommendations for effective education messages about vaping include:

  • providing information about vape ingredients
  • explaining the vape company/tobacco industry connection
  • describing the negative health effects of vaping
  • responding to the social use of vapes
  • addressing perceptions about addiction/cessation/self-efficacy.

A recent systematic review suggests that messages about nicotine addiction are less persuasive compared to information about the harmful chemicals in vapes, possible lung harm, and brain effects. It is important to ensure that any activities are tailored for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth. This will include describing the benefits of never vaping/stopping vaping as well as the harms of vaping. Another suggestion for Indigenous specific messaging comes from the American Indian Cancer Foundation which uses the headline ‘E-cigarettes are not our tradition’.

There is evidence that school-based education activities have an increased chance of working if they:

  • are interactive
  • include social influences and peer leadership
  • use culturally appropriate activities
  • are tailored for the age of the children.

Danila Dilba staff delivering a school education session

Linking school-based interventions into wider community activities as part of a multi-component program also seems to boost impact. This is thought to be because the effects of school-based smoking and/or vaping prevention programs are sustained when changes in the larger community are also present and when there is reinforcement of the program over time. A review of the evidence also recommended that 15 or more sessions are delivered to young people at school, at least up until the ages of 14 or 15 years.

Evaluated school-based health education activities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people, include the Deadly Choices program, an interactive education program of eight weeks which encourages young people to be positive lifestyle role models. Since 2010 this program has been delivered to more than 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students across 20 schools and training centres throughout South East Queensland and has been found to have a positive impact in the urban setting on students’ knowledge, attitudes and self-efficacy regarding leadership, chronic disease and the impact of risk factors including smoking. These are recognised as important steps towards reducing the number of young people taking up smoking and increasing the number of young people who quit smoking.

For more information on strategies for engaging children and young people to promote anti-smoking messages, view the NBPU TIS’s Child youth and engagement resource package.

Graduates of the Deadly Choices Tobacco Education Program

Community education for adults

Guide to developing a smoke-free workplace policy

Educational activities for adults are often delivered in existing community groups or in workplaces as part of a program to support workplaces to develop, review or implement smoke and vape free policies. Linking into groups where you know priority populations can be found is usually a very successful approach. Examples include: ‘Mums and bubs’ groups, men’s sheds, Aboriginal Land Councils, Indigenous Ranger Groups, and Art and Cultural Centres. Connecting with people wherever they gather in the local community is a great way to enable the program to reach people who do not use community-controlled health services. Outreach programs delivered to remote communities might also include an element of education.

Evidence tells us that effective community education programs:

  • create a supportive environment for influencing behaviour
  • focus on community assets, supporting and strengthen existing community networks
  • motivate and encourage ownership of the program and messaging
  • provide opportunities for examining beliefs and values
  • are strengths based, promoting positive actions
  • are collaborative and use two-way communication methods
  • respond to the diverse needs of the community.

Information and resources should be tailored to the needs of the audience. Topics to consider include:

  • History of tobacco use including the impact of colonisation

    Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service Mums and Bubs brochure

  • Harms of smoking and the benefits of being smoke-free
  • Second and third hand smoke and the benefits smoke free homes and cars
  • Information about vapes, including ingredients and the tobacco industry connection
  • Harms of recreational vaping and the benefits of being vape-free
  • Addressing perceptions about addiction, cessation and self-efficacy to quit (tobacco and/or vapes)
  • Information about where to get support to quit locally.

Community education can also be provided through:

For more ideas about community education view the TIS team success stories. Resources to support community education can be found here.