Auchenharvie Academy in Stevenston has become the first school in North Ayrshire to take part in a national training programme to help reduce the numbers of young people taking up or trying smoking.

The ASSIST programme aims to reduce smoking among young people aged 12 to 13 by training influential students to spread the word on new norms of behaviour through their established social networks.

There are several stages to the ASSIST programme:

  • Identifying, through a peer questionnaire, the most influential students in the year group.
  • Training selected students as ‘peer supporters’ to have informal conversations with other students in their year about the risks of smoking and the benefits of being smoke-free.
  • Providing support for the peer supporters at four school-based follow-up sessions.

Twenty-four second year pupils took part in the ASSIST training over 14 weeks of the last school term. NHS Ayrshire & Arran’s smoking cessation service, Fresh Air-shire, organised the programme to run in the school.

Councillor John Bruce, Cabinet member for Education Attainment and Achievement at North Ayrshire Council, said: “This is a truly innovative scheme which empowers pupils to influence other students about the dangers of smoking.

“The results of this scheme in other parts of the UK have been very successful and we hope to see that positive trend continue here in North Ayrshire.”

Dr Carol Davidson, Director of Public Health, commented: “We are delighted that Auchenharvie Academy has become the first school in North Ayrshire to have signed up to this innovative programme. During the last academic year, more than 20,000 students throughout the UK have taken part in ASSIST. The feedback from the schools which have been involved so far has been very positive.

“NHS Ayrshire & Arran is committed to achieving the Scottish Government’s aim of having a tobacco-free generation by 2034. The ASSIST programme is just one of the ways through which we are working with young people to provide the facts about smoking.”

Source: NHS Ayrshire & Arran