Tobacco is a highly addictive and dangerous drug that kills 5,560 every year in Wales alone. The organisation ASH Wales works to tackle tobacco use across the country. Its ambitious vision: to see “a life free from tobacco for all people in Wales.” It works to achieve this through various campaigns, and is helped along the way by funding from the National Lottery.
The current Lottery funded project is a particularly innovative smoking prevention programme that aims to combat youth smoking by harnessing the power of social media. It targets 13-25-year-olds throughout Wales and aims to create the country’s first online community, where young people will be able to access information and news about tobacco and its dangers. A social media expert will ensure that the initiative reaches and engages with as many young people as possible.
Reaching young people in Wales is especially important. Currently, 16 per cent of 15year-old girls and 11 percent of boys regularly smoke. The average age for children to start smoking in Wales is between 11 and 12. “I believe this project will be successful in engaging with young people,” says ASH Wales Chief Executive Elen de Lacy. “Social media is the avenue that many young people use and we already know that social media campaigns have shown good evidence in changing attitudes and perceptions.”Much of ASH Wales’ work centres around protecting young people from the dangers of smoking. Current campaigns include calling for a ban on smoking in playgrounds and cars.
A network of youth ambassadors and peer health promoters help the organisation in its work. One of the youth campaigners, Martha, says: “Since becoming a peer health promoter I have learned a great deal about the devastating impact tobacco has on people’s lives and communities. It’s really important that factual information is available to young people so they can make informed decisions about their health.”
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