Smoking is the main cause of preventable illness and premature death in Britain. Although smoking amongst young people has been falling steadily, it still presents a significant threat to health.
Schools have an important role to play in providing effective drug education, including about tobacco, and supporting those who want to stop smoking.
It is important to teach children and young people about the health risks associated with tobacco use, although knowledge alone is not enough to prevent the uptake of smoking. Some common approaches to tobacco education may have the unintended consequence of enhacing risk factors for starting smoking; these include approaches designed to create fear or disgust such as a focus on graphic photographs of smokers lungs. Drug education and public health messages need to be designed with care or they risk being effective only with those who were at low risk of smoking to start with.
Drug education can reduce levels of smoking among young people if it is interactive and focussed on young people's skills, attitudes and values, including correcting young people's overestimates of smoking prevalence. A use of social norms can help to reduce smoking prevalence in young people.
Further information about smoking prevention can be found in this briefing from Mentor.
It is important that smokers have easy access to support to help them quit. As a minimum, information on local NHS Stop Smoking Services should be easily available in schools.
Support for Wiltshire schools
The Wiltshire Stop Smoking Service can be promoted to staff and pupils. Local support flyer (March 2015)