Ban on Coro stars lighting up encouraged
Coronation Street stars lighting up on prime-time television are burning impressions onto vulnerable youth, says a 15-year-old smokefree advocate visiting Palmerston North.
British schoolgirl Katie Lou Holland spoke at a Smokefree Summit held at Massey University's Turitea campus this morning.
She was flown over from England by the university.
The summit is the last of three in New Zealand and is the culmination of a youth anti-smoking campaign launched by Massey last year called It's My Life, which is run by and for its students.
Katie is a member of British youth smokefree group D-MYST, whose smokefree campaigns have included street demonstrations and petitions calling for British soap operas Coronation St and Eastenders to go smokefree on screen.
"There's lots of research done that shows young people copy what they see on TV," Katie said.
"We focused on those two because they are the two major ones that are on before 9pm when youth are watching."
D-MYST had already presented a 10,000-strong petition to British television regulator Ofcom, urging it to force the television soaps to go smokefree, she said.
"Ofcom didn't really respond as well as we would have liked. It wasn't too much of a surprise," she said.
"Now we're targeting the programmes individually and we've got 10,000 signatures to present to each show."
Katie's smokefree activism was motivated by her mother's smoke-related health problems.
Youth smoking was more obvious in the UK but she would not be in New Zealand unless there was an issue here too, she said.
Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia was at the summit and called Katie and the young people who had organised it and been a part of the day "champions of change".
"I'm here to see a revolution, and one that I hope will resonate throughout the country," Turia said.
More than 20 stalls were set up and live music played as students learned about ways to quit smoking and ways to be smokefree ambassadors in Palmerston North.
Student co-ordinators Braden Prideaux, Nicole Watts and Chanel Tamahanga said the event was a step in the right direction towards a smokefree New Zealand.
"It's better to first target the people who haven't started or have barely started rather than people who have been smoking for 50 years," Watts said.
"As a kid you don't want to hear it from an adult so to hear it from people your own age is the best way."
Prideaux said a petition to attempt to make the Turitea campus smokefree was being circulated as part of the day.