Youngsters encouraged to be Smoke-free

NHS Highland has joined forces with Inverness Street League and supported by Inverness Caledonian Thistle Football club and in a bid to create smoke-free environments for youngsters to play sport.

The health board is re-launching its Smoke-Free Sports initiative to prevent young people from starting to smoke, and encourage people to quit.

Coaches, players and spectators of the Inverness Street League are taking part in the project, and they have signed a pledge to avoid smoking while on official club duty.

NHS Highland’s senior health promotion specialist Susan Birse said:

“It is vitally important that we support young people to make positive choices about their health.

“By getting many of the local football clubs to pledge their support, we hope to encourage people to think about quitting or not starting smoking.

“It’s wonderful that Inverness Caledonian Thistle Football Club are backing the Smokefree Sports initiative, as they are such an active part of the community in Inverness, and many youngsters look-up to the first team players.

“A word of encouragement from any of the players at the club can resonate further with young people, and we look forward to working in partnership with the club to promote this vital health message.”

Danny MacDonald from Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC was on-hand at Inverness Royal Academy today to award prizes to the winner of a competition between S1, 2 and 3 pupils to design a logo for the campaign.

“Inverness Caledonian Thistle Football Club is delighted to be involved with the Smoke-Free Sports initiative,” he said. “It’s important that we create smoke-free environments for young people to play sport in.

“At professional level, smoking tobacco has been banned in stadiums for a number of years, and it is important we encourage coaches and parents to refrain from smoking when watching their children play football or any other sport.

“We all have a role to play in setting a good example for our young people to follow, and it would be great if it encouraged people to stop smoking along the way.”

The Smoke-Free Sports initiative was launched in 2013 and was the first of its kind in Scotland. It focused on football and had many youth clubs across the Highland capital signed up to create smoke-free environments for youngsters to play the beautiful game.

“This campaign will focus on more sports such as boxing and rugby as well as football,” Susan Birse explained. “It’s important that we reach as many young people as possible and educate them about the dangers of smoking.

“The enthusiasm the clubs have show in signing up for the programme highlights how committed the community is to help create a smoke-free culture for the future.

“One of our local teams, Balloan FC, is travelling to Manchester to represent Highland in a national tournament. They will be displaying our new Smoke-Free Sports website on their kits, so hopefully it encourages wider discussion among parents, coaches and players.”

James Fraser from Inverness Street League said: “Everyone knows that your body is more likely to develop health problems if you smoke.

“For footballers and other athletes, that means your performance will suffer. As coaches, we always try to give all of our players the chance to perform to their best, but sometimes life choices can get in the way of that.

“We hope that Smoke-Free Sports will give coaches, parents and guardians the opportunity to provide positive role models to encourage youngsters to make informed choices about their health, and to think twice about starting to smoke.”

Julie MacLennan from Inverness Royal Academy said: “This was a great competition as it gave us the opportunity to combine design with health and well-being. The pupils responded positively to the idea that this campaign was trying to get co-operation from smokers to consider where they smoke and who it effects.

“It also created meaningful and interesting discussions on the subject. Pupils found it a challenge, but they managed to produce loads of amazing ideas which were appreciated by the judges.

“The feedback from the judges was extremely positive and they were impressed with the imagination that the pupils showed in their work.”