Less Paper, Healthier Planet: Tobacco Surveillance in the Field


  • CDC, the government of El Salvador and international partners collaborated to conduct the first electronic Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS)
  • The electronic survey aligns with this year’s World No Tobacco Day theme, “Tobacco: Threat to our environment”

Teenage girl looking at a portable device

Teenage girl looking at a portable device

In the fall of 2021, CDC’s Global Tobacco Control Branch piloted in El Salvador the first Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) using electronic data collection (EDC) methods. CDC collaborated with Research Triangle Institute, the Pan American Health Organization, and the El Salvador Ministry of Education and Solidarity Fund for Health. Since 1999, over 180 countries worldwide have surveyed school-going youth by completing a GYTS through hardcopy answer sheets distributed to students in schools, then completed and shipped to CDC headquarters for processing. Challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, including no in-person schooling and shipping delays, severely limited the ability to conduct the GYTS. CDC worked with partners in El Salvador to pilot and subsequently developed an EDC version of the GYTS. Offering an electronic GYTS option aligns with CDC’s aim of helping countries enhance their capacity to monitor tobacco use among youth and provide information for their tobacco control programs to protect youth from harms of tobacco use.

In accord with this year’s World No Tobacco Day theme, “Tobacco: Threat to our environment,” offering an EDC process could offer significant environmental savings over time (e.g., from not involving paper, printing, shipping, travel). As Internet communication services become readily available in schools, an online GYTS survey could decrease time for fieldwork and data processing, while making data for action readily available. For example, fieldwork for the GYTS El Salvador EDC pilot was completed in approximately 2 weeks, instead of the usual 6–8-week process. CDC has already received requests from two new countries for completing an EDC version of the GYTS in 2022.