Emma Hughes quit smoking two months. Aged 15, she had been smoking for the past two years.
“It’s still hard sometimes but I hope I’ve given up for good,” she says.
She is 160 teenagers in Liverpool who have been given help to quit as part of one the UK’s first school-based smoking cessation schemes.
The scheme, which was launched in November 2000 has helped 85% of young people who signed up to either quit smoking altogether or cut down significantly.
The project has proved so successful that health officials in other parts of the country are considering introducing it to other schools.
High smoking rates
The programme focused on the 11 secondary schools in Knowsley, which has one of the highest rates of teenage smoking in the country.
An estimated 13.7% of teenagers in the area smoke, compared with a national average of 10%.
The programme involves bringing smoking cessation advisors into schools. They provide students with a mix of information, advice, confidential support groups and individual counselling.
Officials say the scheme has been a success - 29% of students who signed up have given up while 56% have cut down on the number of cigarettes they smoke.
Mary Farrell, who spearheads the project, said: “This is the first time substantive evidence of a successful smoking cessation project with young people has been available anywhere in the UK.”
The programme certainly has Emma’s support.
“When the smoking advisors came in to school I thought I’d give it a go but was worried about what my friends would say, that it would be difficult when everyone else is still smoking.
“The advisors made me realise is that it’s something you have to do for yourself. It’s not easy but they really care about you and support you, with talking and stuff.
“You don’t want to let them down because they believe that you can do it.”
Revision date: June 20, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD