That is an interesting subject for your essay. You haven't specified if this is primary or secondary level so how you approach sensitive topics would depend on this of course.
We have actually had a question about teaching science to pupils from different religions and cultures - see link below. I've included some more updated references from the education indexes relating to science and religion and also health education relating to smoking.
Also, the resources we have on the TTRB relating to teaching controversial issues should be useful in your research? See links below. Much of the guidance could be applied to a range of teaching scenarios and subject areas.
The Teachers TV videos could be particularly useful so try a search of the site with keywords: controversial issues or health education or PSHE to see what is available.
As well as a sample of references to articles on this topic area I include some of the keywords I used so you can continue your search. Your university library should have some of the journals in stock or available electronically and I think it does subscribe to the education indexes (BEI, ERIC and AUEI) via Dialog Datastar so you can continue searching. I hope this helps.
Best of luck with your essay!
Teaching Controversial Issues
Teaching Controversial Issues - Oxfam (2006)
Time for change? Personal, social and health education
Drug Education: An Entitlement For All - A report to Government by the Advisory Group on Drug and Alcohol Education
Teaching about controversial issues
SEAL reading 5.4.6: Guidance on potentially sensitive and controversial issues
Every Child Matters
Health and Wellbeing
Personal wellbeing (primary)
Institute of Education library catalogue
Tackling controversial issues in the primary school : facing life's challenges with your learners. Woolley, Richard. Publisher:Routledge, Publication date:2010. ISBN:9780415550178.
The challenge of teaching controversial issues. Claire, Hilary, Publisher:Trentham, Publication date:2007.:ISBN:9781858564159.
Critical lessons : what our schools should teach. Noddings, Nel. Publisher:Cambridge UP, Publication date:2006. ISBN:0521851882.
Dealing with issues. Haydon, Deena Publisher:Folens, Publication date:2002. ISBN:1843031515.
British Education Index
NOTE: For information about accessing full text articles please read this TTRB article: Access to full text journal articles
KEYWORDS: DEBATE; CREATIONISM; SCIENCE-EDUCATION; RELIGIOUS-ATTITUDES; BELIEFS; WORLD-VIEWS; HEALTH EDUCATION; SMOKING; DRUGS; ABUSE; TEACHING-METHODS.
The postmodern sin of intelligent design creationism. Science and Education, June 2010, vol. 19, no. 6-8, p. 757-778, ISSN: 0926-7220. Pennock-Robert-T.
Hindu responses to Darwinism: assimilation and rejection in a colonial and postcolonial context. Science and Education, June 2010, vol. 19, no. 6-8, p. 705-738, ISSN: 0926-7220. Mackenzie-Brown-C.
Getting to Darwin: obstacles to accepting evolution by natural selection. Science and Education, June 2010, vol. 19, no. 6-8, p. 625-636, ISSN: 0926-7220. Thagard-Paul, Findlay-Scott.
Darwin and religion: correcting the caricatures. Science and Education, May 2010, vol. 19, no. 4-5, p. 391-405, ISSN: 0926-7220. Brooke-John-Hedley.
How should science teachers respond to the science and religion debate? Education in Science, February 2010, no. 236, p. 20-21, ISSN: 0013-1377. Taber-Keith-S, Billingsley-Berry, Riga-Fran.
Science education and religion in the post-Darwin era: an historical perspective. Forum (for Promoting 3-19 Comprehensive Education), 2009, vol. 51, no. 3, p. 323-332, ISSN: 0963-8253. Prince-Tiffany.
Modern science and conservative Islam: an uneasy relationship. Science and Education, June 2009, vol. 18, no. 6-7, p. 885-903, ISSN: 0926-7220. Edis-Taner.
Religion, interculturalism and science in an English primary school. Intercultural Education, August 2008, vol. 19, no. 4, p. 363-366, ISSN: 1467-5986. Coulby-David.
Should science educators deal with the science/religion issue? Studies in Science Education, September 2008, vol. 44, no. 2, p. 157-186, ISSN: 0305-7267. Reiss-Michael-J.
Tobacco Education in the Primary School: Paradoxes for the Teacher. Health Education Journal, 2006, vol. 65, no. 1, p. 5-13, pp. 9, 22 refs., ISSN: 0017-8969. Spratt-Jennifer, Shucksmith-Janet.
"Objective: The overall aim of the research was to investigate the approaches taken to tobacco education by primary school teachers. Setting: Research was conducted in four diverse areas of Scotland. Methods: Semi-structured interviews and focus groups were conducted with primary 6 and primary 7 teachers. Questions explored the classroom issues perceived by teachers when delivering tobacco education and focused particularly on teachers' responses to pupils from smoking households. Results: Smoking was presented as a matter of personal choice, with teachers claiming impartiality, but this created a paradox as they attempted to deliver a strong anti-smoking message. Commonly, teachers held outdated views of peer pressure as a coercive force, and strove to develop strategies to withstand or avoid such situations. Few understood the active choices that young people make within their social context. A number of problems were identified in delivering tobacco education to children of smoking parents, which often resulted in these children being subject to a diluted health message. A minority of schools took a more proactive approach which is examined here. Conclusion: Health educators should work with schools to develop teaching methods and materials which realistically appraise the choices young people face. More "honest" approaches which acknowledge the pleasure, need and social significance of smoking would better equip pupils to examine the issues, and would have more relevance for pupils whose parents and siblings smoked."
Commitment and Compatibility: Teachers' Perspectives on the Implementation of an Effective School-Based, Peer-Led Smoking Intervention. Health Education Journal, 2008, vol. 67, no. 2, p. 74-90, pp. 17, 31 refs., ISSN: 0017-8969. Audrey-Suzanne, Holliday-Jo, Campbell-Rona.
"Objective: Although current UK policy argues that schools have a key role in raising health standards, emphasis on the core curriculum restricts teachers' opportunities to undertake health promotion activities. The challenge is to design effective health promotion interventions that minimize pressures on teaching staff and curriculum space. Here we consider teachers' perspectives of an effective peer-led, school-based smoking intervention, implemented by external trainers. Design: The intervention, during which influential Year 8 students identified through a whole-year peer nomination process were trained to reduce smoking uptake through informal interactions with students in their year group, was evaluated by a pragmatic randomized controlled trial (ASSIST: A Stop Smoking In Schools Trial). An integral process evaluation examined the context, implementation and receipt of the intervention. Setting: Thirty secondary schools in south-east Wales and the west of England. Methods: Teachers in all intervention schools completed questionnaires at key stages of the intervention. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken in four schools at baseline and immediately post-intervention. The method of constant comparison, derived from grounded theory, was used throughout the analysis. Results: The intervention was successfully implemented in a wide range of schools; recruitment and retention rates were good; and outcome data showed a reduction in smoking levels. Some teachers expressed concern about the participation of challenging students, external trainers setting standards of discipline, and communication over timetabling. Conclusion: Overall, teachers showed commitment to the ASSIST intervention and felt it was compatible with the Year 8 curriculum. If implemented more widely, the importance of peer nomination should be stressed. (Contains 5 tables and 2 figures.)"