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Smoking prevention and cessation in young people

02 April 2021
Volume 2 · Issue 2


Smoking is started primarily in adolescence and is responsible for nearly 80 000 preventable deaths in England per year. Children and young people are reported to become addicted to tobacco and smoking within 4 weeks of starting the habit, In this article, Emma Croghan considers how school nurses can aid in preventing children and young people from taking up smoking, focusing on effective interventions such as mass media campaigns and school or peer-based programmes. How to help young people stop once they have developed a smoking habit is also discussed, based on the Ask, Advise, Act steps for advice sessions with young people who smoke.

Smoking tobacco continues to be the single biggest cause of preventable mortality – with nearly 80 000 preventable deaths estimated to be caused by smoking in England alone in 2017 (NHS Digital, 2019). It is also a major driver of health inequality, accounting for around half of the difference in life expectancy between the richest and poorest in the UK (Scottish Government, 2013; Department of Health and Social Care, 2017). Smoking is a behaviour that is mainly started in adolescence; 77% of 16–24 year old smokers in 2014 had started smoking before the age of 18 (Department of Health and Social Care, 2017), and so preventing uptake of smoking by young people is a key mechanism to reducing adult health inequality and preventable mortality.

The latest UK Tobacco Control Plan, ‘Towards a smoke free generation’ (Department of Health and Social Care, 2017) has four key objectives, to be achieved by 2022:

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