Each year in the UK, 207,000 children start smoking and almost two-thirds of current and ex-smokers started smoking before the age of 18. Three-quarters of children are aware of smoking before they reach the age of five, regardless of whether or not their parents smoke.
Indeed, many children undertake smoking for the first time in childhood with one-third of children having tried smoking by 11 years of age.
Intervening at the earliest possible opportunity to prevent the initiation of smoking and de-normalise the use of cigarettes is vital if the UK government wants to achieve a smokefree society by 2030.
Researchers from Liverpool John Moores University, in conjunction with public health and sports stakeholders, developed a sports initiative for children and young people called Smokefree Sports.
Smokefree Sports is a unique, multi-sport, community-based initiative which is designed to prevent the uptake of smoking, reduce the prevalence of smoking in children and young people and increase awareness of the health consequences of smoking.
Using the power of sport, community coaches can deliver health promotion messages and brief interventions to children and young people.
Smokefree Sports was effective at changing attitudes towards smoking, and increasing the level of individual self-efficacy to refuse cigarettes immediately after delivery of the programme.
Almost all participating children had not developed an intention to smoke, indicating that sport-for-health interventions such as Smokefree Sports, offer a promising strategy for smoking prevention efforts, and should target children who are closer to the actual average age of smoking onset.
To learn more about the Smokefree Sports project and its impact on children and young people, click the button opposite to download the main paper published BMC Public Health.