As a part of MD Anderson's mission to end cancer, we're aspiring to raise the first tobacco-free generation. It's this goal that led to the creation of the ASPIRE program.
ASPIRE, which stands for A Smoking Prevention Interactive Experience, aims to educate teens about the dangers of tobacco use, so they never start smoking. For teens who already use tobacco, it provides information and strategies to quit smoking.
This free, web-based school curriculum has enrolled participants from 28 states and one international city. The program is available in both English and Spanish.
"Young people are very picky about what and how they are taught," says Alexander Prokhorov, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Behavioral Science and director of the Tobacco Outreach Education Program. "That's why we created this online course that is fun, interactive and entertaining while still being educational."
Online tobacco and smoking prevention
ASPIRE can be accessed by anyone through the MD Anderson website. It offers information tailored specifically for one person or for groups. Those who have never smoked can use ASPIRE to learn why it's important to avoid tobacco and how to talk to others about the harms of tobacco.
Current tobacco users can use the curriculum to learn why it's important to quit smoking, and get help to kick the habit using the comprehensive cessation and relapse-prevention process laid out by ASPIRE.
"Just about everybody knows that smoking is bad for you," Prokhorov says. "But very few know why. The most impactful part of ASPIRE is that it really spells out why smoking is bad for you."
According to Prokhorov, students are amazed to learn that cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 different compounds and chemicals. Recent findings also showed that tobacco use is linked to more than just lung cancer. Other diseases, such as bladder, kidney and cervical cancers, have all been associated with tobacco use, too.
Raising a generation of tobacco-free youth
Through ASPIRE, Prokhorov's ultimate goal is to raise a tobacco-free generation. Tobacco use is the number one preventable cause of death and cancer in the United States. More than 400,000 deaths each year are attributed to tobacco use, and according to Prokhorov, if everyone stopped using tobacco, one-third of all cancers would be eliminated.
"Research has shown that young adults can develop nicotine dependence very quickly," Prokhorov says. "It's our job through ASPIRE to educate them on the short-term and long-term consequences of tobacco use, and prevent this deadly behavior from continuing."