Filtering out the Facts on Tobacco - First Quit Smoking Support Service for Children and Young People Launched in Wales

The first quit smoking advice and support service dedicated to 11-25 year olds will be officially launched in Cardiff later today, with the aim of reducing the number of children who start smoking each year in Wales.

Public health charity Action on Smoking and Health in Wales was awarded more than £850,000 from the BIG Lottery Fund last May to develop the project - The Filter - which aims to spread the message of the dangers of tobacco among children and young people.

Around 14,500 young people aged 11-15 try smoking every year in Wales.

The Young People’s Quit Smoking project will fulfil a need that is unlike any other service currently available in Wales and will include online support, free tobacco education and training for youth workers, teachers and health professionals working with young people, as well as a telephone ‘quitline’ tailored to teenagers.

Marc George, 17 from Cowbridge is one of thousands of young people in Wales who started smoking as a child. Marc tried smoking for the first time when he was 13 and started smoking regularly when he was 14.

“My older brother was smoking and my friends so I decided to start,” he said. “I was close to my brothers’ friends and they smoked too. My family don’t agree with it and they think it’s a disgusting habit."

“I still do smoke but don’t smoke more than 10 in a day unless I go on a night out. I afford it as I work two jobs and buy tobacco instead of cigarettes. I do have an interest in giving up but don’t have the motivation to do it. I have tried to give up once using the electronic cigarette but it only lasted a day. I think young people smoking is down to peer pressure, they want to see what it tastes like and also think they’re cool in front of their mates.”

The BIG Lottery funding has enabled ASH Wales to appoint a Programme Manager to run the project; two telephone advisers; two training and education officers who will provide tobacco control training to professionals working with young people; a web and social media officer, as well as a youth development officer who will work directly with young people in their communities.

Jamie Jones-Mead, Programme Manager for the Filter said:

“In Wales research has shown that 14% of 15 year old girls and 9% of 15 year old boys regularly smoke (HBSC 2010) and we need to get those figures down. There is a big gap in smoking advice and support tailored to young people in Wales, and we hope that this project will reach out to those who are falling through the net.

“Because most smokers experiment with cigarettes in their teenage years it’s crucial that a targeted service is available early on to give them the facts about tobacco and the harm it causes before they are even tempted to start. By the time they want to give up many are too addicted to stop.

“Up to now education about smoking has been very adult focussed and usually delivered by authority figures. Quite often it’s seen as punitive as well. Our project will have young people at its heart; we will communicate with them on their terms and hopefully what we do will resonate with their everyday experiences.

“We were delighted to receive funding from the BIG Lottery last May to set up the Filter which will enable us to offer that dedicated support and advice to young people.”

The project is generating support from across Wales including high profile figures such as Olympic silver medalist rower Chris Bartley. Chris who is from Wrexham said: "Smoking is an addiction that causes huge damage and we have to do everything we can to stop children taking up smoking. It's great news that we're going to have a dedicated service in Wales to help young people to quit and to offer advice and information about smoking through new ways.

“I want to see more kids with the confidence to say 'no' to smoking and I hope that The Filter will encourage more and more young people in Wales to turn their back on tobacco."

Visit thefilterwales.org for more information.