Some parents go to great lengths to prevent their kids from smoking and taking drugs recreationally. But what about school programs? Do social support programs in schools effectively deter children from smoking cigarettes?

Researchers reviewed over one hundred gold-standard studies in the literature of smoking prevention, and found that certain middle and high school programs teaching self-esteem and life skills were associated with reduced tobacco smoking later in life.

The study was important because tobacco education is common in schools, but until now has not been tested for its effectiveness, said Julie McLellan, co-author of the study from the University of Oxford, UK.

The findings were published in The Cochrane Library, a publication of the Cochrane Collaboration, which is an international organization that evaluates medical research.

Between 50 and 70 percent of U.S. middle and high school students have received tobacco education at some point in their lives, according to a survey conducted in 2000.

The criteria for papers included in the review stipulated that the children considered in the research be between the ages of 5 and 18 years old, and that they must have been tracked by researchers for six months.

Among the review's findings was that programs emphasizing independence and resistance to social influence were linked to a reduction in smoking after a period of one year.

About 30 percent of a given population will smoke cigarettes, but when factoring in prevention efforts in childhood education, that percentage is expected to drop to roughly 27 percent for a similar population, McClellan said.

Andy Johnson, an expert in school-based prevention programs who was unaffiliated with the study, commented on the findings in Reuters Health.

"It does say there is a productive science here of how to prevent cigarette smoking and probably other substances as well. We have to pursue that science," said Johnson, dean of the School of Community and Global Health at Claremont Graduate University in California.

McClellan said that more research is needed on the effects of social support programs, and the relationship between prevention programs and medical long-term cost savings.