A new pilot scheme has been launched at a Cornwall school aimed at reducing the number of pupils who smoke or vape.
Funded by Cornwall Council, it is taking place at Liskeard School & Community College and if successful will be replicated in other schools and communities.
The primary focus of the scheme is to prevent young people from taking up smoking but it also aims to discourage vaping, which is becoming more popular.
It will do this by educating them about the consequences, offering weekly face-to-face support and workshops, and reviewing the school’s Smoke Free Policy.
Cornwall Council’s Trading Standards team have carried out an initial inspection of shops in the area, offering Under Age Sales (UAS) advice to any selling vapes and seizing any non-compliant products. They will return to the area later in the month.
The pilot also aims to help adults, including pupils’ parents and school staff, to quit smoking through face-to-face and virtual support groups.
Liskeard was chosen as it is known to be an area where there are ‘health inequalities’ - unfair and avoidable differences in people’s health, healthcare services and opportunities to lead a healthy lifestyle.
It comes after latest statistics from NHS Digital show vaping is becoming more popular among teenagers nationally with nine per cent of 11-15 year olds currently using e-cigarettes - an increase from six per cent in 2018.
Fortunately, the number of pupils who smoke has decreased from five per cent to three per cent over the same period.
Latest statistics by charity ASH show there are almost 70,000 adult smokers in Cornwall who puff their way through 640,000 cigarettes a day.
Dr Ruth Goldstein, assistant director of public health for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said:
“It is vital that we dissuade as many young people as possible from smoking so they don’t enter adulthood as smokers. Young people who take up vaping is also a developing problem and we’re keen to tackle it head on at an early stage.
“By the same token, we are also determined to help as many adult smokers as possible ditch the cigarettes as the catastrophic effect this has on your health can never be understated.
“This pilot scheme in Liskeard is a great way of addressing these issues and, if successful, we hope to replicate it across all of our communities in Cornwall.”
Chris Knipe, deputy head at Liskeard School and Community College, said:
“There is a growing concern across the UK that the number of young people using vapes is increasing and that young people often do not fully understand the potential health risks associated.
“Members of the Cornwall Council Health Improvement Team have been visiting Liskeard School and Community College to run educational workshops and assemblies with students, as well as offering drop-in sessions to support members of the community to quit smoking and vaping.
“Feedback from students involved has been extremely positive and we hope this pilot rolls out across all of Cornwall in the coming months.”
Cllr Barbara Ellenbroek, portfolio holder for children and families, said:
“It is one of our priorities to make Cornwall a brilliant place to be a child and grow up, which means that we have a duty to protect the health and wellbeing of our young people as much as possible. So it is concerning to learn that the numbers of school pupils who start vaping is on the up.
“Schemes such as the one in Liskeard will hopefully help to reverse the trend while warning young people about the dangers of smoking so I am delighted that it is up and running.”
Cllr Dr Andy Virr, portfolio holder for adults and public health, said:
"Vaping is undoubtedly a useful tool for adults trying to quit smoking tobacco, but our concern is the growing trend of young people taking up vaping who have never smoked.
“As is the case with tobacco, vapes and e-cigarettes shouldn’t be sold or provided to people under 18 so as part of this pilot we’ll also be making sure traders aren’t breaking the law and exacerbating the problem.
“It is also paramount that we stop as many of our young people as possible from taking up smoking as the impact this could have on their health and quality of life as an adult is horrific. I wholeheartedly welcome this pilot and have no doubt it will be a success.”
For more information on quitting visit the Healthy Cornwall Smokefree web page or download the free NHS Quit Smoking app, which includes a handy calculator so smokers can see how much they could save.