July 7, 2021, 12:27 p.m. News Staff — Tar Wars, an educational campaign owned and operated by the AAFP and designed to teach school-aged children about the harms and costs of using tobacco products, has updated two of its most popular presenter resources. The enhanced tools are available on the Academy’s Information for Tar Wars Presenters webpage and are free to use by anyone interested in participating in the campaign.
Kevin Kovach, Dr.P.H., M.Sc., senior manager of population and community health in the Academy’s Division of Health of the Public and Science, expanded on the updates for AAFP News.
“The tobacco use landscape has evolved dramatically over the past several years,” Kovach said. “Although there have been major successes with regard to youth smoking, youth vaping has emerged as an epidemic, and policy and systems change have become core elements of tobacco prevention.”
Key areas of the Tar Wars Presentation and Tar Wars Program Guide have been updated with input from Lynn Fisher, M.D., a member of the Commission for Health of the Public and Science. For example, Kovach noted that contemporary images are now more engaging for today’s youth, true/false and trivia questions encourage interactivity, and a new section has been added to address vaping, which has rapidly overtaken smoking as the leading form of youth nicotine use. There is also a new section that uses technology-based learning, including a virtual scavenger hunt, to explore how students and teachers can create smoke- and vape-free schools and communities.
“We think these updated resources will really help improve tobacco prevention as they empower students, teachers and family physicians to be their own advocates and to address the social determinants of health that influence tobacco and vaping initiation,” Kovach said.
Evidence suggests that AAFP chapters involved with Tar Wars have been satisfied with the program’s results, especially in the area of increasing children’s knowledge about the dangers of tobacco use.
Among the chapters that have utilized Tar Wars, the Georgia AFP’s foundation, the Georgia Healthy Family Alliance, in 2020 released a video on YouTube that described the experiences of an adolescent who developed severe lung injuries as a result of vaping. The alliance has also published a number of fact sheets and other educational resources on the topic.
“Our goal is to teach fourth- and fifth-graders the true dangers of these products before they are ever offered that first puff, which the CDC reports can be as early as age 11, with many already addicted by age 14,” said Eddie Richardson Jr., M.D., of Eatonton, Ga., president of the alliance’s board.
“Armed with an effective and interactive curriculum, Tar Wars has evolved into a powerful tool for family physicians to use to educate the next generation on the dangers of tobacco, hookahs, e-cigarettes and vapes,” added Richardson.
Additional program information is available on the Academy’s primary Tar Wars webpage.