Preventing smoking in schools
Children who start smoking before the age of 16 find it harder to quit - and are twice as likely to continue to smoke as those who begin later in life. They are also more likely to be heavier smokers.
That's why new NICE guidance focuses on the kinds of activities that schools (including primary schools and breakfast and after-school clubs) and further education colleges can get involved in to prevent children and young people from taking up smoking in the first place.
One of the first steps, says NICE, is to introduce a smokefree policy throughout the establishment so that nobody using any part of the grounds or buildings, at any time, for any reason, is allowed to smoke.
NICE also recommends that schools encourage pupils to discuss the legal, economic and social aspects of tobacco use - as well as the health effects of smoking - as part of the national curriculum (for example, during classes in biology, chemistry, citizenship and media studies).
Research shows that, with suitable training and support from adults, children and young people can help their friends understand why smoking is such a bad idea and NICE also believes students should be encouraged to lead smoking prevention activities.
Research also shows that such activities can help enhance self-esteem - as well as encouraging students to resist the pressure to smoke from their friends and family members, the media and the tobacco industry.
"The earlier children become regular smokers, the greater their risk of developing life-threatening conditions, such as lung cancer and heart disease, if they continue smoking into adulthood," says Professor Mike Kelly, Director of NICE's Centre for Public Health Excellence.
"Over 55% of 15 year-olds have tried smoking and 15% of this age group are regularly smoking every week. Our new guidance will help stop children from starting to smoke in the first place, by advising on what action schools can take."
The guidance is available at www.nice.org.uk/guidance/PH23
This page was last updated: 10 May 2010