Opening doors : identifying factors that influence students’ use of pastoral care and school-based health services related to tobacco and other harmful drug use

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health


School of Exercise, Biomedical and Health Sciences


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr. Laura Thomas

Second Advisor

Dr Robyn Johnston


Despite all the health warnings and risks associated with tobacco use, adolescents
continue to smoke. In 2008, just under five percent of Australian students aged 12 to
17 years indicated they had smoked a cigarette in the past week (Griffiths, Kalic, &
Gunnell, 2009b). These figures are the lowest since the national student survey
commenced in 1984 and suggest positive progress in the area of youth tobacco control.
However, each year a new generation of school students will experiment with smoking,
increasing their chance of initiation (Warner, Jacobson, & Kaufman, 2003). It is
therefore vital to develop alternative strategies to continue to reduce the level of
smoking among adolescents, especially as many adolescents who smoke express an
interest in quitting (Plano Clark et al., 2002).

As students spend a large portion of their day in the school environment (Darling,
Reeder, Williams, & McGee, 2006), schools have the potential to influence their social
behaviours, including their smoking-related behaviours (Youngblade et al., 2007).
Research has indicated that connectedness to school can influence pro-social
behaviours in students by further increasing the bond between student and staff
(McNeely & Falci, 2004), which has also been associated with reducing the likelihood
of an adolescent initiating smoking (Resnick, Harris, & Blum, 1993).

School-based health/pastoral care services staff seem ideally placed to support students
to build resiliency, and therefore help them to overcome risks and empower them to
make informed health decisions (Hearn, Campbell-Pope, House, & Cross, 2006;
Thomas, Hall, Adair, & Bruce, 2008). However, previous research with Western
Australian secondary students found that, contrary to expectations, they would not
necessarily approach the school nurse(s) to discuss smoking cessation or other drug use
problems (Bond, 2009). Students indicated they would be more likely to talk and
engage with school staff who they found approachable and trusted.

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