ASH Wales will create the UK’s first social media youth smoking prevention programme to help combat youth smoking in Wales.

The innovative project, which is being funded by a grant from the BIG Lottery, will target 13-25 year olds throughout Wales and is designed to create Wales’s first online community where young people will be able to access the latest news and information about tobacco. Teenagers will be engaged in an interactive and creative way using games, video, photos, downloadable applications and chat.

The new project will further complement ASH Wales’s existing youth smoking prevention work including youth volunteering and peer health promotion programme aimed at addressing young smokers in Wales. Amongst Welsh 15 year olds, 16% of girls and 11% of boys regularly smoke.

ASH Wales Chief Executive Elen de Lacy said:

“This is a project that we believe in strongly and the funding from the BIG Lottery will mean we can progress it in the early New Year. I believe it will be successful in engaging with young people. Social media is the avenue that many young people use and we already know that social media campaigns have shown good evidence in changing attitudes and perceptions amongst this target audience.”

The social media project will support the priorities outlined in the Welsh Government’s Tobacco Control Action Plan to prevent young people from starting to smoke and reduce smoking prevalence rates to 16% by 2020.

One of ASH Wales’s young campaigners, Martha, 24, from Cardiff commented:

“Since becoming a peer health promoter with ASH Wales I have learnt a great deal about tobacco and the devastating impact it has on people’s lives and the communities they grow up in, and wherever possible I use this knowledge to pass information on to others. It’s really important that factual information is available to young people so they can make informed decisions about their own health.”