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Boost in support to educate Welsh youth on substance misuse

Police forces in Wales have received further training around illegal tobacco to assist educational talks in schools. The training has been launched to encourage a holistic approach to child substance use in Wales, which means agencies joining forces to protect Welsh youth .

The training has been launched by the tobacco control organisation ASH Cymru, whose work centres on smoking and health. The training was inspired by the organisation’s leading work on the Welsh Government’s Campaign, No Ifs No Butts, which raises awareness on illegal tobacco and how it can act as a gateway for children to start smoking. Given that illegal tobacco often sits within a wider net of substances and topics, ASH Wales expanded its training to include:

  • Tobacco and health
  • Youth vaping
  • Illegal vaping products
  • Smoking’s effects on the environment

Schools in Wales often call upon external organisations to deliver educational talks on youth substance use. The third-sector, school liaison officers, and various health professionals often host lessons and assemblies across the country.

In addition, the police can support schools through hosting talks on safeguarding and crime prevention, which often includes talks on substance misuse. The new training, delivered by ASH Cymru, aims to support the police in their educational deliveries by relaying developments on the substance landscape, and informing officers how to further support their young communities to seek help.

Suzanne Cass, CEO of ASH Cymru, marked the importance of supporting current programmes of work. She said:

“The ethos of launching the training was to support the fantastic work that is already carried out by the police and other agencies across Wales.

‘Our work demands that we are up-to-date with the latest stats, findings and concerns on youth substance landscape, so it seemed logical to share this knowledge through seminars.”

To date, ASH Cymru has hosted seminars with Gwent, Dyfed-Powys and North Wales Police. The organisation is planning seminars with additional forces, health bodies and regulatory teams later this year.

In context to smoking, the new training fits within efforts to deter youth smoking rates in Wales. According to the School Health Research Network (SHRN), 9% of 15 to 16 year-olds still smoke on a regular basis, a figure which has not significantly dropped since 2013.

Reducing child smoking was recently cited as a priority within the Welsh Government’s new Tobacco Control Strategy, released earlier this year. The strategy seeks to curtail youth smoking in  Wales to help create a smoke-free society. The strategy has been launched by the Government in a bid to reduce the national harms of smoking, which claims 5,000 Welsh lives each year and costs the Welsh NHS over £300 million annually.

Rachel Bott, Campaigns Officer for ASH Cymru, marked how the new training fits within the Welsh Government’s efforts. She said:

“As the Government’s new strategy marks, creating a healthier Wales will involve everyone coming together to support each other in a whole-systems approach.

‘The new training embodies this spirit, as it shares knowledge with those working in the heart of our communities .”

Bethan James, Police Schools Programme Manager at Dyfed-Powys Police, highlighted the benefits of sharing approaches and resources for Welsh youth. She said:

“The substance landscape is rapidly evolving, and it is important that Wales comes together to support children in the best way possible.

‘This includes staying updated on substances that impact on children and young people, such as illegal tobacco and illegal vaping products. Work which seeks to aid our current and ongoing efforts in schools across Wales is welcomed.”