New scheme - The Filter - to tackle smoking by 11-25-year-olds
TEENAGERS and young people will be given help to quit smoking through the first advice and support service in Wales.
The service, which is dedicated to 11 to 25-year-olds, is aimed at driving down the number of youngsters who start lighting up every year.
A total of £850,000 of Big Lottery Fund cash was pledged last May to public health charity, Action on Smoking and Health in Wales (Ash Wales), to allow them to push ahead with the project.
The scheme, entitled The Filter, will also hammer home the message of the dangers of tobacco among children and young people.
Figures show around 14,500 young people aged between 11 and 15 start smoking every year in Wales.
Jamie Jones-Mead, programme manager for the Filter, said: "In Wales, research has shown that 14 per cent of 15-year-old girls and 9 per cent 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."
The Young People's Quit Smoking project will offer online support, free tobacco education and training for youth workers, teachers and health workers who support young people, along with a telephone quitline aimed at teenagers.
The cash has helped Ash Wales to put in place a programme manager to run the project, along with two telephone helpline advisers, two training and education officers, to offer tobacco control training to health workers with young people. And the project also now has a web and social media officer, along with a youth development officer who will work closely with youngsters in their communities.
Mr Jones-Mead said the project would be very much centred on youngsters.
He added: "Until now education about smoking has been very adult-focused and usually delivered by authority figures.
"Quite often it's seen as a punishment 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."