Dromore schoolchildren are among a total of 650,000 provincewide to have taken part in Cancer Focus
Northern Ireland’s Smokebusters Club over the past 25 years.
As the charity celebrates the club’s silver jubilee, it poured praise on participating schools, among them Dromore Central Primary School and St Colman’s Primary School.
Catering to P6 and P7 pupils, Smokebusters is a free programme for schools, highlighting the harmful effects of smoking in “a fun and engaging way” while teaching children skills to help them resist peer pressure to smoke before going into secondary school.
Since its launch in the 1988/1989 academic year, the club has gone from strength to strength, membership reaching an all-time high last year when 30,850 children, in hundreds of schools across Northern Ireland,signed up.
Gerry McElwee, Head of Cancer Prevention at Cancer Focus, said: “We are very excited about the 25th anniversary of Smokebusters and I would like to thank all those schools and teachers who have shown so much support over the years.
“I am so proud of the way the club has grown and how well received it is by schools. Many of them have continued to take part through the years, helping us to spread the ‘don’t smoke’ message to each new generation, which is hugely important.
“According to the Young Person’s Behaviour and Attitude Survey 2011, almost 19% of young people aged 11-16 years have smoked tobacco, and just over 62% of those smoked when they were 13 or under.
“This underlines just how vital our work with children is.”
Mr McElwee said Cancer Focus was looking forward to taking Smokebusters into the future and continuing its work towards a healthier, smoke free environment for young people.
One of the first ever Smokebusters Stephen Keery, now 35, said, “A lot of people in my family smoked but I hated it, so I was a very enthusiastic member.
“I used to give out leaflets and information to other pupils at school and got other Smokebuster members to pledge not to smoke.
“A lot of my friends were starting around that age but I did my best to put them off. . .
“Smokebusters is excellent because it gives children the information and they can make a decision themselves, rather than just telling them what to do.
“I’m delighted the club is such a success.”
Teachers who would like more information should call Caroline Mulhern on 028 9068 0735; email firstname.lastname@example.org, or enrol online at www.cancerfocusni.org.