Take a break from the norm — and resolve to help young people stay smoke-free in 2019

Our Development Lead for Children & Young People, Emma Papakyriakou, has written this blog post for us, which looks forward to 2019 and steps that can be taken to promote being smoke-free to young adults across Scotland.

Traditionally, New Year resolutions are personal goals set to improve something in our own lives. From what young adults have told us I could imagine some of their resolutions might include wanting to eat better, get fitter, drink less alcohol, quit smoking or improve finances.

While this tradition is based on positive intentions, and some might feel motivated to achieve their goals, for many changing behaviour can be really challenging. This is particularly true for quitting smoking for a number of reasons, including the highly addictive nature of nicotine. It can be difficult to break away from something which has become a coping mechanism, even one as unhelpful and harmful as smoking.

The environments young adults are transitioning to, and spending a lot of their time in, can also impact on establishing 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, who are still at great risk of taking up smoking. While we know young adulthood is a time of development, exploration and taking new risks, evidence reinforces the need to promote that their lives will be better without smoking and that even experimentation can quickly lead to a lifelong nicotine addiction.

So if we want to help young adults to identify with the benefits of being smoke-free, 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. Do young adults arrive into settings where smoking breaks are the norm, instead of a culture of breaks focused on meeting everyone’s wellbeing needs?

But what if we changed how we viewed breaks and how we talk about smoking? What if we worked, studied or trained in places that valued the importance of taking a break for 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 to fulfil their own personal wellbeing goals and help young adults continue to be smoke-free. Imagine the impact this approach could have on young adult’s wellbeing and work related stress of staff. Imagine how improved mental wellbeing and physical health could improve productivity and reduced costs of absences to potential employees and none attendance of students.

It may seem impossible to influence but there are simple and practical things you can do to begin to change the culture of smoking within your establishments. And ASH Scotland is here to guide you through it. All you have to do to start creating a smoke-free culture is take 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 so sign up today.

5. Finally find us on twitter and show your support by following @ashscotland. Even post a picture with the hashtag #befreeachievemore to show how you are encouraging young adults to take time out, just like the young adults from Action for Children Employability Service.

If you think your organisation could get involved with this work, follow Emma on Twitter and drop her a message.