Wales’ only dedicated stop smoking service for young people is coming to an end today (Thursday 29th March) after five years supporting thousands of teenagers.
ASH Wales’ “The Filter” project, which tackles smoking among teenagers in hard to reach areas where prevalence is highest, will cease 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 take up smoking every day in Wales.
In total The Filter project has engaged with 12,500 young people at 250 events and delivered hundreds of out-of-school workshops. In addition, 800 youth work professionals have been trained to educate others about the deadly habit.
The Filter’s most popular workshop, Commit to Quit, saw young people taking on a 6-week challenge to either reduce the amount they smoked or quit altogether. Last year alone the team worked in more than 40 youth provisions and helped 120 teenagers to quit smoking.
Overall, the Commit to Quit team worked with more than 650 young smokers from across Wales with 66% of those who set a quit date stopping smoking completely - this compares with a 42% quit rate within adult services.
Teenager Kathleen Davies, who took part in Commit to Quit programme when she was 17, had started smoking when she was just 11 years old. She said: “My grandad died from throat cancer after smoking and my dad is very sick after smoking for 40 years. I promised my dad I would give up and that was it.”
Kathleen’s carbon monoxide (smoke) levels were monitored weekly to check her progress. In week one she blew 29 on the monitor – an incredible high reading and that of a heavy smoker. But by week three Kathleen was scoring a ‘2’ which is equivalent to a non-smoker.
Cheyane, aged 15 from Merthyr, was quick to thank The Filter team for the part they played on helping her to quit: “I started smoking when I was 13, my friends were all doing it and I sort of got peer pressured into it. I quit smoking using The Filter and it wasn’t difficult to quit with their help – they were very supportive… they pushed me and gave me the support I needed. I started the CO on 15 and went down to a 4!”
The national target to reduce adult smoking to 16% of the population by 2020 is unlikely to be achieved if no additional action is taken and current trends persist.
According to the latest figures from the Public Health Wales Observatory, the 16% target will instead be reached in 2025.
Suzanne Cass, Chief Executive of ASH Wales, said: “As Wales’ only dedicated service supporting young people to quit smoking we are saddened to see this life-changing project cease. Our team have been working in those areas where help is needed most.
“We must not forget smoking rates among the ‘least deprived’ adults in Wales stands at 9% versus 28% among the ‘most deprived’ – representing a 19% difference. The young people we have been working with are usually from the ‘less well off’ areas. These young people must not be left behind there must be tailored interventions to steer them away from tobacco.”
“The key to the success of this programme has been the informal approach, engaging young people in their regular meeting places such as youth clubs and training centres.”
The Filter’s social media accounts will no longer be active however its website thefilterwales.org will remain, hosting information on a variety of smoking-related topics such as second-hand smoke and smoking around pets.
The NHS offers a free stop smoking service in Wales called Help Me Quit. Smokers are four times more likely to stay smokefree with support than if they go it alone. To get free, local, and tailored advice visit www.helpmequit.wales, text ‘HMQ’ to 80818 or phone 08000 852 219.