The first pupils in England under the age of 18 have been given nicotine patches to help them quit smoking.
Thanks to the loosening of restrictions on using nicotine replacement therapy products following advice from the government’s Committee on Safety of Medicines, secondary schools in County Durham are now taking part in a pilot offering treatment to 12- to 17-year-old smokers.
The scheme includes relevant training for school nurses and youth workers. Alyson Gowland, school nurse at the Stanley School of Technology, is currently helping eight 12- and 13-year-old pupils who came forward asking for help with their smoking habit after hearing about the new smoking cessation group in a Year 8 assembly.
After a thorough assessment and discussion with their GPs, three of the children have since been prescribed nicotine patches. All eight are attending a weekly support group, where they also have their carbon monoxide levels checked.
“Some of them have been smoking since they were 11,” Gowland said. “If we don’t try and get in now and get them of cigarettes now, it is only going to get harder for them.”
Stanley School of Technology is the second in Derwentside to pilot the scheme. A third school is due to start next week, followed by the remaining three secondary schools in the area.
“After the 12-week programme we need to look at it and decide if this is a good age group to target,” Gowland said. “We are already having pupils from other years saying they want to join the group. So it could be that we decide to run a course for pupils of all ages in the future.”