Providing a health-promoting environment for young adults has immediate benefits for their attainment and engagement.
While moving into positive destinations and having new experiences may be exciting for some young adults, it can be an unsettling and challenging time for others, especially those already experiencing poor mental health. It’s at times of stress or uncertainty that young people may look for coping mechanisms — but taking up smoking has implications for attainment now, as well as long term health impacts.
Young adults we spoke to who were already smokers talked about the hold smoking had on them, dictating the need for breaks and costing them a lot of their available money. They described smoking as a coping mechanism to help them feel calm at times of stress, when in fact it was often nicotine cravings that were unsettling them. In response we need to discuss how their lives will be better without smoking and that even experimentation can quickly lead to a lifelong nicotine addiction.
The environments young adults are transitioning to, and spending a lot of their time in, can impact on establishing healthy or unhealthy behaviours. The visibility and culture around smoking breaks not only creates an unsupportive environment for those wishing to quit but it reinforces smoking as an acceptable and sociable behaviour to young adults.
And while most schools and families today are conscious about creating a smoke-free environment for children, young adults often arrive into a culture where smoking breaks are the norm, where doorways and entrances are visible gathering points for smoking breaks and where smoking is an expected part of the social scene.
If we want to help young adults to identify with the benefits of being smoke-free and living well, the environments they spend time in and those supporting them need to promote and role model the lifestyles we want young adults to value for themselves.
Young adults have a right to work, study or train in places that promote and support everyone’s health and well-being. Creating a health promoting culture in these settings is not about alienating or stigmatising smokers, it’s about providing a place that supports everyone’s wellbeing.
It may seem impossible to influence but there are simple and practical things you can do to prepare your premises for new and returning young adults. Remember changing culture takes time and ASH Scotland is here to guide you thought it. To get started follow these simple steps:
1. Request free posters (or download your own) at www.befree.scot and display the posters where young people spend time within your establishments.
2. Have conversations with the young adults you support (our top tips will help).
3. Create a health promoting culture for all young adults by removing the visibility of smoking at doorways and buildings and encourage alternative breaks for all young adults and staff (our 5-step guide will help).
4. Gain recognition for taking these steps and sign up to the Charter for a Tobacco-free Generation. Sign up is simple and free.
5. Finally find us on twitter @ashscotland and tell us how you are getting on. Even post a picture with the hashtag #BeFreeAcheiveMore to show how the young people you work with spend a smoke-free break.