Preventing young people from smoking

30% of ALL cancer deaths can be attributed to smoking.

Parent and ChildMost smokers start the habit when they’re young, typically around 13 years old. So it’s important to give children the facts about smoking at an early age. They can then make informed decisions about whether to smoke or not.

In 2003, Health Scotland asked Primary 6 and 7 teachers what teaching resources they needed in schools to educate children about the dangers of tobacco and smoking.
Based on these findings, Health Scotland developed Tobacco Facts – a tobacco education resource for schools. It is aimed at educating pupils on the dangers of smoking so they can make informed choices.

This resource is designed to help teachers talk to children about the harm of smoking. The pack contains a series of fact sheets and suggests practical activities and experiments. It also describes how the topic can be included across the wider curriculum and within a health-promoting school ethos.

Advertising to Young People
The tobacco industry must recruit new smokers in order to survive. Since studies show that the majority of smokers begin before the age of 18, the logic of the industry indicates that it must somehow reach young people. Each year, the tobacco industry spends billions of pounds around the world on advertising, marketing and promotion. Following the implementation of the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act in 2003, most forms of tobacco advertising and promotion are now banned in the UK.

Recently disclosed industry documents reveal that the tobacco companies have carefully studied the habits, tastes and desires of their potential customers and then used that research to develop products and marketing campaigns aimed at them.

The Centre for Tobacco Control Research (CTCR) at Stirling University has produced a unique database containing over 14,000 pages of documents from the UK tobacco companies’ advertising agencies, plus a series of case studies demonstrating how the tobacco industry and their advertising agencies market their products.

Find out more about the Centre for Tobacco Control Research (CTCR) (External link)
Health Scotland Advertising Campaign
In June 2005, Health Scotland launched a new TV and poster advertising campaign to highlight the negative effects of smoking for young people. This campaign targets young girls aged 12 and upwards specifically.

Current statistics on young people and smoking facts show almost a quarter (24%) of all 15-year-old girls are regular smokers compared with 14% of 15-year-old boys (SALSUS 2004).

Butts features a young girl, a smoker, who has several negative and almost surreal experiences as a result of her smoking:

In the shower, she is unaware that she has ash and cigarette butts falling from her hair.
When her mobile phone credits have run out and she tries to top up, she opens her purse to find it full of cigarette butts and no money.
At a party when kissing a boy, she is embarrassed when he pulls away and spits cigarette butts out of his mouth.
The reason for this creative approach is that research indicates that young people, and particularly young girls, are more concerned with the social and cosmetic effects of smoking even though they are well aware of the long-term health implications.

Smoking Prevention Working Group
The Smoking Prevention Working Group (SPWG) was chaired by Dr. Laurence Gruer of Health Scotland. It was set up to address the challenge of helping to prevent young people from becoming smokers. The SPWG’s report Towards a Future Without Tobacco contains a series of recommendations intended to discourage young people from starting to smoke and enable young regular smokers to stop. As a result of the report it is now illegal to sell tobacco and tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18. The Scottish Government undertook an extensive consultation on the recommendations which helped to inform the development of Scotland’s Future is Smoke-free: a Smoking Prevention Action Plan ( (External link))