Youngsters' smoking prevention scheme receives national award
Cambridgeshire youngsters participating in the Kick Ash smoking prevention programme are proving to be a true inspiration and very effective at spreading their core ‘proud to be smoke free' message amongst other pupils and businesses alike.
The efforts of the teenage volunteers leading the scheme as Kick Ash Mentors are now receiving national recognition with a Trading Standards Institute's (TSI) Hero Award at TSI's Conference in Manchester (28 June).
Youngsters in the programme's Trading Standards group visit local businesses to prevent underage tobacco sales and help with test purchasing, spreading their smoke free message - 111 shops have been visited by the young mentors who informed business owners about the Kick Ash programme and gave advice on how to prevent underage sales.
The Kick Ash mentors in the Trading Standards group also helped with test purchasing of tobacco at 74 shops in their schools' catchment areas - after their visit, all of the shops that had previously failed a test purchase (16%) implemented the Challenge 25 policy and then passed subsequent tests.
Theresa Williams, Trading Standards Officer at Cambridgeshire County Council, said: "The mentors have had a direct impact on preventing underage sales in the county by engaging with businesses. These young people are heroes because they are standing up for something they believe in, something that isn't necessarily popular. They spread this important message not only to their peers but to their communities as well. The potential impact of their work is far-reaching and will save lives."
The scheme, which currently operates in four secondary schools and their partner primary schools, is supported by a partnership of NHS Cambridgeshire, Cambridgeshire County Council, schools and young people. Kick Ash Cambridgeshire programme includes prevention, cessation, enforcement, education and advocacy in its remit.
There are up to 30 peer mentors in each school. The scheme has 223 15-year-old mentors (70 of whom work specifically with Trading Standards), more than 1,000 13-year-olds (Year 8) and 1,120 10 to 11 year-olds (Year 5/6).
The programme has some impressive achievements under its belt:
The number of Year 10 pupils who reported having a cigarette in the previous week dropped from 18% in 2008 to 13% in 2010 (in comparison, the Cambridgeshire average went from 15.5% to 15% in the same period).
The number of Year 8 students who reported smoking a cigarette in the past week went down from 4% to 2.5% over the same period.
Leon Livermore, Cambridgeshire County Council's Head of Supporting Businesses and Communities and TSI Chairman, said: "Without these Kick Ash volunteers, we would not have been able to have the impact upon underage smoking that we have done."
And Dr Liz Robin, Director of Public Health at NHS Cambridgeshire and Cambridge County Council, said: "I don't think you can underestimate how intimidating it can be standing up for something that might not be seen as ‘cool' by their peers and they do this with passion. Many students apply to be Kick Ash mentors because they would like to make a difference to their families and friends."
Mentors visiting Dee's Budgen store in Cambridge were invited back to the store by manager Brian Moorey to promote Kick Ash to customers. He said: "I look forward to our store being a place where the Kick Ash message can not only be supported but also used as a hub so that the message can be driven to as many youngsters as possible."
The mentors, who give up their free time for the project, report increased confidence and an improvement in listening skills from being involved. Mentors join one of three special interest groups: communications, Camquit (smoking cessation service) or Trading Standards.
One mentor said: "I helped family members stop smoking and I really want people to listen to what we have to say."