Uncool and harmful: winning youngsters’ verdict on smoking

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STUDENTS from Avon Valley School in Rugby proved they are a cut above the rest with their hard-hitting film about the dangers of smoking.

Their film - ‘It’s not just the smokers who suffer’ - was the overall winner of the Smokefree Warwickshire local awards last Monday night.

Avon Valley premiered their films along with pupils Ash Green School near Bedworth and young people from the Youth Justice Service to an audience of their peers, parents and wider community, including Rugby mayor Gwen Hotten, councillors and trading standards officials.

ICT teacher Dan Phelan said: “We were pleasantly surprised with how well we did.

“As a performing arts college it gives us a chance to showcase our gifted and talented students.”

The Cut Films competition, promoted to schools and youth groups nationwide, encourages young people to research, write and produce a short film about why smoking isn’t cool, and then publish them for other young people to view and vote on social networking sites.

Sue Weston, Smokefree Warwickshire Co-ordinator, said: “Smoking is the UK’s most preventable cause of early death, two out of three smokers start smoking in their teens and we’re committed to preventing young people starting to smoke.

“Cut Films has been a fantastic way of engaging young people, as it challenges them to explore their peers’ attitudes towards smoking and create persuasive films which can be shared online using the powerful connections of social media to convey messages which they think are effective.”

She added: “Encouragingly, the research evaluation for this project shows that making the films has strengthened young people’s attitudes towards not smoking.”

John Linnane, Director of Public Health for NHS Warwickshire, added, “We know smoking is the leading cause of death and disability in Warwickshire and it’s exciting to see young people who have taken part in Cut Films and their peers understand how harmful smoking is – in a way which is relevant to them.

Although this film-making project focused on smoking, this type of engagement with young people allows them think about their health, attitudes and behaviour in relation to a number of other health and lifestyle issues.”

Each film was shown on the big screen before awards were made in the winning categories.