YOUNG girls who play sport and take part in extracurricular activities are far less likely to start smoking, research has revealed.
A survey of girls aged 11 to 14 year found building confidence in young women – by playing more sports and games – could reduce the likelihood of them taking up smoking.
In Wales, the average age at which children start to smoke is 12 years old. In north Wales, the percentage of 11 to 16-year-olds who smoke more than once a week is 5 per cent for boys and higher for girls at 10 per cent.
Developed in Wrexham, social media campaign “Girls with Dreams” aimed to raise aspirations and build teenage girls’ confidence. Over a four month period, the project surveyed almost a quarter (21 per cent) of 11-14 year-olds living in the area.
Director of public health for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board Andrew Jones said: “The Girls with Dreams campaign is about getting girls to dream big and helping them to understand that nicotine addiction can hinder their future aspirations. The girls who took part in the evaluation survey at the end of the campaign said they had no intention of smoking or vaping – now the project will be rolled out to the rest of north Wales.”
“We will encourage local authorities and schools to understand their current participation levels of girls in extra curricular activities and to re-market their offer to increase uptake in partnership with young girls -this is especially important in deprived areas where smoking prevalence is higher.”
“It’s key that young people don’t see adults smoking so we want all schools to implement a smoke free gates policy – so parents don’t smoke within close proximity to the school gate.”
A campaign developed by daughters of parent smokers called “Quit for you, Quit for them” is also being launched in north Wales , encouraging young girls to tell their parents they don’t want them to die from smoking.
The report comes from Social Change UK, which was commissioned by Public Health Wales on behalf of the north Wales Tobacco Control Alliance. It surveyed 11 and 12 year-old girls living in north Wales about their attitudes towards people who smoke and awareness of the dangers of smoking.
The research found that two per cent of 11-12 year old girls smoke, with prevalence rising to five per cent in some communities. It also found that young people find e-cigarettes highly appealing and their use is widespread. Girls as young as 11 and 12 have experience of using e-cigarettes and obtain them easily from friends, parents, shops and pizza places.
Coun Michael Williams, lead member for children’s services and education for Wrexham Borough Council hailed the campaign.
He said:”This is excellent news and shows what can be achieved by working in partnership to target specific age groups. It is vitally important that all children and young people have positive aspirations and are given every opportunity to achieve their full potential”.