Smoking & Vaping


Smoking is an addiction from youth, with most smokers starting before they turn 18.  Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body and kills almost half of its users, making it the leading cause of early and preventable death in the world.  Over two thirds of those trying one cigarette go on to become daily smokers and it takes someone 30 attempts on average to successfully quit, showing the importance of preventing smoking initiation.

Research shows that smoking prevention activities undertaken in schools reduce the number of young people who later go on to become smokers. Delivering smoking education is important as it can help to prevent or address smoking behaviours at an early age before they become embedded and habitual.  

Local picture  

In Devon, data from the most recent pupil wellbeing survey in 2020-21, which sampled 6,000 pupils, showed that overall smoking rates remain low, with 99% of year 6 pupils stating they had never tried smoking. By year 10, up to 4% of pupils stated that they smoke occasionally and up to 4% of pupils smoke regularly, with higher rates seen in girls. Additionally, some secondary school pupils reported smoking in times of stress or when they are worried, and this was reported by 6% of year 10 girls.  

Support to Quit

Support and nicotine replacement therapy is available for free in Devon to help people stop smoking, for young people and adults. Referrals and self-referrals can be sent via Devon’s specialist stop smoking service.  

Vaping has become an increasing concern for schools, but like smoking, in primary school rates are low, with 98% of year 6 pupils stating they had never tried vaping in the pupil wellbeing survey in 2020/21. In secondary school, up to 22% of year 10 pupils had tried vaping, 5% using them occasionally, and 5% using them regularly.

Key messages on vaping: 

  • Vaping is a useful tool to stop smoking, but not recommended for those who are non-smokers 
  • Vaping is less harmful than smoking, but is not without risk  
  • It is illegal to sell nicotine vaping products to under 18s or to buy on behalf of children  
  • Although they do not contain tobacco, vaping does expose users to chemicals and toxins of which the full range of health consequences to young people are currently unknown  
  • Many vapes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive and can impact developing brains  
  • Some disposable vapes that are available to purchase are illegal and do not meet UK safety regulations, making them dangerous to use  
  • Vapes are difficult to dispose of, and contribute to landfill waste  

There has been growing concern around the use of vapes in school. Schools can try to minimise vaping by integrating vaping education into PSHE, and by providing consistent messaging “if you don’t smoke, then don’t start to vape!”. Take a look at some of the resources below to support your approach to vaping, including resources developed for schools specifically around vaping by ASH in collaboration with Smokefree Sheffield, which are useful as part of a whole school approach. 

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