Stub it out!

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NHS Lothian and West Lothian College this week launched an innovative new campaign to encourage students to see that smoking is not as popular as they might think.

The smoking prevention initiative is based on Social Norms Approach and has been effective in delaying and preventing the uptake of smoking amongst teenagers in other countries by as much as 40 per cent.

The campaign materials feature the students from a wide range of courses at the college and highlight the fact that most of the students don’t smoke. The adverts will run on LCD screens though out the college for the coming months.

Social Norms encourages young people to question the perceptions they have regarding risk taking behaviour amongst their peers that are often created as a result of assumptions and misperceptions.

For example, while students at West Lothian College think that 60 per cent of their peers smoke, the reality is that only about 30 per cent smoke. This campaign is designed to promote more accurately the “social norm”, in order to address these misperceptions.

West Lothian students have played a key role in developing the campaign. A team of students helped to collect responses to a questionnaire and the results have formed the basis of the materials.

Mandy MacKinnon, health promotion manager, NHS Lothian, said: “We are delighted to be working with West Lothian College on this innovative campaign. The West Lothian smoking cessation service will be providing advice for those who currently smoke to ensure a complete package of support for students. The campaign will be running for 16 weeks and we will be evaluating its success to see where else it could be applied.”

Mhairi Laughlin, principal at West Lothian College said: “Previous research has shown that campaigns like this have had a positive effect on student health and college drop-out rates so we were very excited to work with NHS Lothian on this. The students have really embraced the campaign and were keen to appear in the photographs.”

Jamie Fairley, president of the West Lothian College Student Representative Council said: “The fact is that very few of us smoke and by promoting this message we hope to encourage our fellow students not to start smoking.”