The pioneering project involved pupils who were specially trained as mentors to support friends and classmates. The project led to Year 8 students being able to explain why people shouldn’t start or how they can get support and help to stop if they need it.
Each student was chosen by their classmates as the most influential in their year in the programme aimed at reaching young people via those they will listen to most.
The scheme was run at Angmering School in Angmering, near Littlehampton, and led by NHS Sussex in partnership with Sussex Community NHS Trust.
Angmering School’s subject leader for health, Tina Goodman, said: “It has been fantastic to be involved in this project and the students that have been involved have really risen to the challenge.
“It is not easy to talk to their friends about subjects like smoking but all of those that have taken part have been enthusiastic and are really making a difference.
“As a school we want to ensure our students have the best start in life and ensuring they can go on to live happy, healthy lives is a key part of that. “Making sure they are all aware of how they can stay healthy and prevent diseases later in life is clearly an important lesson. The work our students have done through this project is definitely a step in the right direction towards achieving that.”
Each student that takes part receives two days of training from NHS professionals learning about the impact smoking has on health, exploring the benefits of not smoking, and discussing reasons why people may choose to smoke. They are also given advice on how to approach their peers and how to support them to make the right decisions.
NHS Sussex tobacco control lead Anna Kirk said: “For young people smoking is a group activity, and one of the best indicators that a young person will start smoking is if their friends already are.
“What this project is working to achieve is to show young people that there are other options – choices they can make together which can help them all to stay healthy for longer.”
Figures show that by the age of 14 and 15, 10% of girls and 8% of boys across the county regularly smoke.