Wales’ Social Services and Public Health Minister Rebecca Evans today joined teenagers at a skills centre in Cardiff to mark the success of ASH Wales’s unique quit-smoking service for young people.

Commit to Quit, an 8-week stop smoking course, has helped hundreds of young ‘hard-to-reach’ people to quit the habit. The Minister visited the latest eager recruits at Itec Training and Skills centre in Cardiff who are all trying to give up smoking. 

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This year over 300 young smokers from more than 30 sites across Wales have opted to take part in the Welsh Government-funded programme. The project has been a huge success with more than 50% of the young smokers who have completed the course managing to quit their deadly habit. 

Smoking rates among Welsh teenagers are at an all-time low with 8% of boys and 9% of girls aged 15 and 16 saying they smoke regularly, but smoking rates in the more deprived areas of Wales remain stubbornly static.  Smoking is the biggest driver of health inequalities in Wales, especially as young smokers become addicted adults.

Smoking rates in the most deprived areas of Wales are significantly greater than in the more affluent - 29% of those classed as ‘most deprived’ smoke, compared to just 11% of those classed as ‘least deprived’. For example, smoking rates in Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire are as low as 16%, whereas in Blaenau Gwent 26% of residents are smokers.

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The Minister for Social Services and Public Health, Rebecca Evans, said: “We have made excellent progress on tackling smoking here in Wales. Smoking rates are at their lowest ever levels - and crucially - fewer young people are taking up the habit.

“I am delighted the Welsh Government has been able to support Commit to Quit. The project is helping hundreds of young people quit smoking, which will have a positive effect on their future health and set them in good stead for the rest of their lives.”

Suzanne Cass, Chief Executive ASH Wales, said: “Commit to Quit is a successful and engaging project with the stats speaking for themselves.”

“Smoking is an addiction of childhood - two thirds of smokers took up the habit before the age of 18, and almost 40% already smoke regularly before the age of 16. If we can get young people to quit smoking before they reach adulthood then we are saving them from a lifetime of disease, illness and the high chance of premature death caused be a smoking-related disease.”

“This is a project the Welsh Government and the Health Minister can be immensely proud of. Because of the government’s commitment and funding we have been able offer young people the chance to make lifesaving lifestyle changes. These young smokers want and need our help and we are delighted we have been able to demonstrate what these young people are capable of.”  

Funding for the programme runs for another year in which time ASH Wales is aiming to help and support hundreds more young smokers to quit. The Commit to Quit project is a free service and available to youth settings with groups of teenagers who want to quit smoking.