smoking and young people

A classroom full of children – 30 young people – take up smoking every day in Wales1. Young people are the tobacco industry’s key buyers since they are the only ones who can replace their lifelong, dying, customers.

Position statement

Our aim is to reduce smoking prevalence amongst young people and work to ensure schools, playgrounds and leisure facilities are smokefree to prevent the impact of second-hand smoke for future generations. Research has found that children exposed to smoking are significantly more likely to start smoking themselves1.

Strengthening the laws around smoking in public in Wales will further protect non-smokers from second-hand smoke and de-normalise smoking for children and young people.

Summary

Smoking at an early age has been shown to have a severe impact on long-term health. The younger the age someone starts smoking, the greater the harm is likely to be. People who start smoking earlier are often the heaviest smokers later in life. They are also the group likely to be the most dependent and with the lowest chance of quitting2. Research shows that the earlier children become regular smokers and persist in the habit as adults, the greater the risk of developing lung cancer or heart disease, which often lead to early death3.

Children with two parents who smoke are three times more likely to take up the habit. Children with one parent who smoked were further found to be 70% more likely to start smoking. It is also known that two thirds of now-adult smokers took up smoking before the age of 184.

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Situation in Wales

Data published in 2015 from the Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children (HBSC) survey6  based on 2013/14 figures, shows that smoking is at an all-time low among 15 and 16 year olds in Wales with 8% of boys and 9% of girls smoking regularly.5

66%

Start smoking regularly before the age of 18

40%

Start smoking regularly before the age of 16

73%

Have tried an e-cigarette

Awareness and use of e-cigarettes and young people

Each year ASH Wales run a survey looking into the awareness/use of e-cigarettes among young people in Wales. The 2016 e-cigarette report was released in May 2016. Responses from 838 young people aged 18 and under formed the basis of the results.

Findings showed that awareness of e-cigarettes was very high among the young people surveyed, with just over 90% of respondents reporting that they knew what an e-cigarette was prior to completing the survey. A variety of different sources informed this awareness, including, in particular, use by strangers/friends, shop advertisements, plus the media/social media and internet.

Legislation

It was announced in May 2018, Wales is set to be the first country in the UK to extend its smoking ban to outdoor areas, with smoke-free areas expected to be in place in hospital groundsschool grounds and playgrounds by summer 2019.  Various health organisations such as Cancer Research UK, British Heart Foundation and ASH Wales have worked tirelessly over the past few years to provide strong evidence to support these laws.

Looking to the future, one of the most powerful control measures outlined in the Public Health (Wales) Act 2017 is the proposed creation of a national register of retailers of tobacco products. This will make it easier for retailers to be identified and monitored – helping to tackle the problem of illegal sales of tobacco to underage young people in Wales.

The Filter Wales

Wales’ only dedicated stop smoking service for young people came to end in March 2018 after five years of youth delivery work. ASH Wales’ “The Filter” project, which tackled smoking amongst teenagers in hard to reach areas where prevalence is highest, ceased to exist due to a lack of funding.

The project was established in 2013 with Big Lottery Funding and due to its success was subsequently funded by Welsh Government for a further 2 years. In the past five years smoking rates among 15 to 16-year-olds in Wales has fallen from 13.5% down to 8.5%, however a classroom of children still takes up smoking every day in Wales.

In total, The Filter project engaged with 12,500 young people at 250 events and delivered hundreds of out-of-school workshops. In addition, 800 youth work professionals were trained to educate others about the deadly habit.

Smokefree School Gates

We’ve designed a toolkit for schools to support them in implementing smokefree gates at their institution.

The toolkit includes:

  • Signage
  • Letters to parents / guardians
  • Template policy
  • Lesson plans
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1Hopkinson, NS., Lester-George, A., Ormiston-Smith, N., Cox, A. & Arnott, D. Child uptake of smoking by area across the UK. Thorax 2013. doi:10.1136/thoraxjnl-2013-204379

2Robinson S and Bugler C (2010). Smoking and drinking among adults, 2008. General Lifestyle Survey 2008. ONS.

3Office for National Statistics (2013). General Lifestyle Survey Overview: A report on the 2011 General Lifestyle Survey.

4Royal College of Physicians. Passive smoking and children. London. 2010

5British Medical Association. Breaking the cycle of children’s exposure to tobacco smoke. London. 2007

The Journal of Physiology. Nicotine and the adolescent brain. 2015

7Short- and Long-Term Consequences of Nicotine Exposure during Adolescence for Prefrontal Cortex Neuronal Network Function. 2012

8Welsh Government (2011). Health Behaviour in School-aged Children: initial findings from the 2009/10 survey in Wales.

9Welsh Government (2015). 2013/14 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) Wales: key findings

10Collation of results from My Local Health Service – accessed 14/01/2015

11Sussman S, Ping S, Dent C. A meta-analysis of teen cigarette smoking cessation. Health Psychol. 2006;25(5):549–57

12Müller-Riemenschneider F, Bockelbrink A, Reinhold T, Rasch A, Greiner W, Willich SN. Long-term effectiveness of behavioural interventions to prevent smoking among children and youth. Tobacco Control. 2008;17:301-2

 

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