TEENAGE girls in Argyll and Bute are to be the focus of a renewed drive to cut down on smoking in the area.

The move follows a recent report that found smoking rates were higher among young women aged 18-24 than among young men of the same age.

Argyll and Bute’s Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) is now set to repeat its programme aimed at mid-secondary school pupils to discourage them from smoking.

It will also continue its projects for younger secondary pupils, along with those in the late stage of primary school, on the dangers of tobacco.

The Advertiser reported earlier this month that plans were in place for an updated tobacco strategy to be implemented in Argyll and Bute.

This was announced as part of a presentation by Laura Stephenson, smoking cessation co-ordinator with the HSCP, at a recent meeting of the area’s Community Planning Partnership.

A spokesperson for the HSCP said: “Since 1996 girls had consistently reported higher smoking rates in Scotland compared to boys, but this gap has been closing as results from the last survey published in 2013 reveal.

“Argyll and Bute’s smoking prevalence of girls in S2 and S4 was similar to the national average with 8.1 per cent of girls smoking compared to 6.1 per cent of boys.

“However, within the 18 to 24 years old age group, the most recent report in 2015 reveals 24 per cent of females smoke compared to 18 per cent of males.

“For over 10 years Argyll and Bute have been delivering a primary 6/7 smoke free prevention programme, this may have contributed to our very low rates of smokers in S2.

“To strengthen this approach, last year, NHS Highland and Argyll and Bute Council introduced a programme aimed at S3 pupils to address smoking, this was part of a programme to highlight support for a range of health issues.

“It involved a powerful drama, a Q&A with service providers and a package of bespoke lessons.

“We are delighted to be delivering the programme again this year and by highlighting the issues related to smoking and the services available to help people stop we hope to continue to reduce smoking prevalence.”

Legislation to raise the legal age of smoking, and the introduction of the tobacco retailer register in 2010, has also had an effect on tobacco sales.

There are also other initiatives in place in Argyll and Bute to help young people live smoke-free lives in their teenage and later years.

The spokesperson added: “Higher rates of smoking are associated with inequalities, living in areas of deprivation, physical health and mental health issues.

“Whilst knowledge of the serious health impacted by smoking is near universal and the proportions who try smoking has steadily declined, we still have lots of work to do.

“Young people are less likely to smoke if they have parents who are smoke free and in Argyll and Bute we encourage people with someone smoking in their household to take up the NHS Highland Smoke Free Homes and Car challenge.

“Laura hopes that by working together we can encourage young people to always be smoke free and for those who do smoke, they feel empowered to access the services to help them stop."

For more details, on what you can do to have a smoke free home and car visit www.smokefreehighland.co.uk/homes-and-cars/ or call 08457 573 077 for an information pack.

For help to stop smoking visit your local pharmacy or ask your GP, while Quit Your Way can provide support over the phone.

Quit Your Way is available on 0800 848484 or online at www.nhsinform.scot/quit-your-way-scotland.