Welcome to the teachers section of "smoke’s no joke". We aim to arm you with all the information you need to tackle smoking issues in school.

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Young people

Three out of four children are aware of cigarettes before they reach five years of age regardless of whether members of their family smoke or not.

From around 11 years of age, there is an increasing chance that they may have experienced smoking themselves.

The following information shows the percentage of children (per year group across Hull and East Riding schools) who have experimented with smoking:
percentage of children who have experimented with smoking

Experimentation with smoking at a young age is a significant predictor of future use. 88% of all adult smokers say they started smoking before they were 18 years old. This is why schools and youth groups have such an important role to play in dissuading children from starting to smoke.

Children are more likely to smoke if one or both of their parents smoke. Parental approval or disapproval of smoking is also a critical factor.

A health and lifestyle survey carried out in 2002 amongst Hull and East Riding school pupils recorded up to 19% of 15 year old boys and 32% of 15 year old girls smoking regularly. This meant of course that most 15 year olds (81% of boys and 68% of girls) didn't smoke and this pattern has continued to move in the right direction throughout the following years.

Child addicts

A child's decision to try or start smoking may well have a lot to do with their perceptions of addiction.

A 2004 study established that children who believed that they would become addicted to cigarettes immediately would never smoke. Those who believed addiction happened more gradually would be tempted to try cigarettes, and those who thought that addiction only happened to adults would not be deterred by the possibility of addiction.

Non-smoking teenagers most frequently quote fear of addiction as the main reason why they do not smoke.

Nicotine addiction develops very quickly in children. Children aged between 11 and 16 who smoke one or more cigarettes a week have similar levels of nicotine dependence as adults. Surveys have shown that 30% of teenage smokers crave their first cigarette within 30 minutes of waking and one in twelve have to light up within 5 minutes of waking.

A 2010 survey found that 73% of regular smokers aged 11-15 stated that they would find it very difficult to give up smoking completely, and 67% said that they would find it difficult to go without cigarettes for a week.

Adolescents also tend not to consider themselves as potential 'smokers for life' and typically quote that they will stop smoking within the next five years.

Just like dad

Actions speak louder than words

A child may be well informed and understand all of the negative aspects of smoking, but this information will have little impact if their peers, teachers, parents and other members of the community apparently ignore this advice by continuing to smoke.

It has been found that the most effective approach is to use strategies that positively influence the social environment and which endorse the messages taught in school. Social attitudes can be changed if schools, parents, the wider community and mass media all focus on the same consistent message and particularly if young people are themselves involved with delivering the programme.

Social norms

Nationally, in the UK, the combination of the negative image now associated with smoking and access to better information and quit support are having an impact on young people. It is children in the age group 11-15 who are becoming increasingly likely to reject smoking as a life choice. In 2010 it was established that 27% of 11-15 year olds in the UK had smoked at least once, compared with more than half (53%) when the survey was first conducted in 1982.

The declines are most marked amongst older teenagers. The proportion of 14 year olds who smoked regularly fell from 13% in 2006 to 6% to 2010. Amongst 15 year olds, 20% smoked regularly in 2006 compared with 12% in 2010.

Nationally, school children are now more likely to have a realistic view of their peer group's attitudes to smoking.

In Hull however, recent research highlights discrepancies in attitudes towards smoking amongst smokers, as compared to attitudes towards smoking amongst non-smokers of the same age.

When smokers attending four Hull secondary schools were asked in 2010 for reasons why they smoked, 90% quoted 'because my friends do', and 82% quoted 'because it looks good'. But when we asked the entire sample group of students which also included the non-smoking majority, only 16% thought it was normal for people of their age group to smoke, only 4% agreed that smoking looked good, far closer to the national norms.

Legal protection

From October 2007 the age at which shops could legally sell tobacco products to children rose from 16 to 18 years and since October 2011, vending machines are no longer a source of cigarettes – for anyone! From April 2012 large retailers will remove tobacco products from open display and from April 2015 this will also apply to small shops.

Local support for young people

The local NHS Stop Smoking service offers support to young people who want to quit, including nicotine replacement therapy.

Call free phone 01482 247 111 or visit www.readytostopsmoking.co.uk

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