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6.7 Preventing young people starting to smoke

Children who start smoking before the age of 16 are twice as likely to continue as adults compared to those who take up the habit later.

Figure 10 shows the level of self-reported smoking amongst school-aged children in South Gloucestershire rises significantly with age between Years 8 and 12. By Year 12, almost one third of school-aged children reported having smoked at least once.

Smoking frequency amongst school-aged children

Figure 10. Smoking frequency amongst school-aged children

ASSIST – A stop smoking in schools programme

ASSIST is an on-going smoking prevention programme which has been running in South Gloucestershire since 2009. ASSIST encourages new norms of behaviour around smoking by training influential Year 8 students to work as ‘peer supporters’. Peer supporters are trained and supported to have informal conversations with other Year 8 students about the risks of smoking and the benefits of being smoke-free.

ASSIST has been evaluated by a randomised controlled trial funded by the Medical Research Council. The trial found the ASSIST programme to be effective in reducing smoking prevalence over a two year period of follow-up. It is estimated that full-scale adoption of the programme across the UK would prevent 20,000 young people taking up smoking each year. On a similar basis, it is estimated that the ASSIST programme could prevent about 100 school-aged children taking up smoking each year in South Gloucestershire.

In October 2015, new legislation will come into force which enforces no smoking in cars when children are present. The public health and wellbeing division will be championing the implementation of smoke-free homes and cars across South Gloucestershire during 2015/15.

Cars on the road

For more information please contact Kathryn Kavanagh, Programme Lead

For further information on South Gloucestershire’s public health and wellbeing division please visit

If you need this information in another format or language please contact 01454 868009