Minister visits new smokefree programme for teens
Public Health Wales has developed a new programme to prevent young people taking up smoking.
The Smokefree programme builds on the best evidence internationally and includes universal action through the Welsh Network of Healthy School Schemes in developing a whole school approach to smoking prevention.
The new programme complements this by targeting schools in areas where children and young people are the greatest risk of smoking helping reduce smoking related inequalities in health, which are the leading cause of the differences in health outcomes between the most advantaged and most disadvantaged communities in Wales.
It draws on the international evidence relating to peer influence and social norms in smoking prevention and social marketing approaches such as the Truth Campaign used in the USA.
It works by recruiting a group of influential year 8 students (ambassadors) from each participating school aiming to build a community of young people that are knowledgeable about the tactics of the tobacco industry and empowered to inform others.
Julie Bishop, Director of Health Improvement, said: “Most smokers take up the habit when they are still at school so it is absolutely critical that we intervene at an early stage and the longer we can delay them becoming smokers the less likely they are to adopt the habit.
“We know that one of the predictors of a young person taking up smoking is their peers’ smoking behaviour.
“Our new programme aims to give the ambassadors the knowledge and skills they need to help share the smoke free messages among their friends and in doing so help us create a healthier Wales.”
Speaking today during a workshop with pupils from Afon Taf School, Merthyr, Minister for Health and Social Services, Mark Drakeford, said: “In Wales, the number of people who smoke is falling. But one in five men and women are smokers – this is higher in some parts of Wales.
“There has been a drop in the number of young people who start smoking but we can’t be complacent – protecting young people from the harms associated with smoking is a vital public health priority and one we will continue to pursue.”
Dr. Bishop added: “One of the unique elements of our programme has been the involvement from the young people in its development.
“We recognised it was important to reflect the way young people communicate today and they have been key advisors on this new programme and the specially designed web based app, which helps them disseminate messages and record their smoke free conversations with their friends.”
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