ASH Wales awarded BIG Lottery funding to create Wales’s first smoking cessation service for young people

Public health charity ASH Wales has been awarded more than £850,000 from the BIG Lottery to fund Wales’s first smoking cessation service aimed specifically at young people.

The Young People’s Quit Smoking Service will fulfil a need that is unlike any other service currently available in Wales and will include online support using social media, text messaging and a telephone helpline tailored to teenagers as well as a volunteer programme.

Around 14,000 young people aged 11-15 try smoking every year in Wales. Research carried out by ASH Wales last year found that 60% of young smokers would like help to quit but just 95 young people under 18 were treated by Stop Smoking Wales, the national smoking cessation service for support in 2010/11(1).

The funding will enable ASH Wales to appoint seven new members of staff to run the youth service for three years including a Programme Manager; two telephone advisers; a training and education officer, a web and social media officer, a youth tobacco prevention specialist and a youth tobacco control support officer.

Chief Executive of ASH Wales, Elen de Lacy, said:

“There is currently a huge gap in smoking cessation support tailored to young people in Wales, but it is vital to reach them before a life-long addiction takes hold.

“We are delighted to receive this funding from the BIG Lottery which will enable us to offer dedicated support and advice to young people. Because most smokers experiment with cigarettes and get addicted to nicotine in their teenage years it is vitally important that a targeted service is available to young people to give them the facts about tobacco and the harm it causes. It’s also vital to have a service that is delivered in a variety of ways including through social media and online.

“Wales has youth smoking rates which are far too high with 14% of 15 year old girls and 9% of 15 year old boys regularly smoking (HBSC 2010) and these smokers are generally concentrated in areas of deprivation. A young person’s smoking cessation advice service is vital if we are to address and reduce the shocking statistics of youth smoking in Wales.”

In July 2011 ASH Wales undertook a major consultation exercise to gauge the views of young people aged 11-25 from across Wales and a wide range of stakeholders. ASH Wales received 1,049 responses to the survey which revealed that:

  • 73% of young smokers thought a youth specific quit smoking service was a good idea
  • Over half (53%) of young smokers would use an internet service aimed at young people for help quitting or to help others
  • 60% of smokers reported that they would like help to quit
  • 57% of young people who had family and friends who smoked would like information to support them to quit
  • 76% of smokers thought that they were addicted

Ms de Lacy added:

“Our research has shown that traditional youth focussed tobacco education programmes have left young people in a passive position. They are usually designed by adults, delivered by authority figures such as teachers and are often perceived as punitive. Such programmes fail to embrace the realities of young peoples' lives. This Young People’s Quit Smoking Service will ensure young people design their tobacco control programme and that the programme resonates with the realities of their everyday experiences at home, school, and in their communities.”

Notes

ASH Wales was awarded £864,881 from the BIG Lottery to fund the Young People’s Smoking Cessation Service for three years.

1. Source: Stop Smoking Wales