A Leeds school is finding new ways to stop pupils taking up smoking by giving a group of students the knowledge and skills to encourage fellow students to stay tobacco free at a time when two thirds of people who smoke do so before the age of 18.

Pupils at Swallow Hill High School in Armley, Leeds are taking preventative steps to reduce the chances they will ever have to stop smoking by never starting. The school is using an initiative supported by Leeds City Council called ASSIST which aims to reduce the number of young people smoking by making sure they never start.

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Two day workshops provide them with information about the effects of smoking on health and the benefits of remaining smokefree and they can then spread this information by having informal conversations about smoking with their peers.

The programme is currently delivered by youth workers from Youth Point, a local charity based in the Cardigan Centre, Leeds. Gemma Williams, a youth worker who delivers the programme said:

“It’s been great being involved in delivering such a unique programme to schools in Leeds. The ASSIST programme gives young people the opportunity to learn about the effects of smoking on health and the benefits of remaining smokefree in a fun and creative manner. The young people feel motivated and confident in their role as peer supporters.”

Martin Stewart, a teacher at Swallow Hill, added:

“The skills acquired by the pupils go far beyond the anti-smoking focus and has helped them develop into peer mentors, as well as doing wonders for their self-esteem. I’m confident the course aim of reducing smoking in young people will be successful and highly recommend the course to others.”

Leeds aspires to be the best city for health and wellbeing and reducing smoking is an important way to reduce early deaths and ill health. With smoking rates for adults currently 23%, reducing those who take up smoking can make a big, long term difference.

Councillor Mulherin, Leeds City Council’s executive board member for health and wellbeing said:

“We know that the majority of smokers start before they are 18 and wish they hadn’t started. ASSIST is based on evidence that has shown less young people taking up smoking after the programme. World No Tobacco Day (May) provided a great opportunity to encourage other schools in areas of high smoking prevalence to consider taking part in this programme.”

Schools interested in the programme can contact Gemma Williams on 0113 274 9959 or email gwilliams@cardigancentre.org.uk

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