British schoolgirl smokefree inspiration

Last updated 12:00 18/03/2014

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Manawatu youth are being urged to stub out smoking and join a global movement towards becoming smokefree.

Massey University is bringing British schoolgirl Katie Lou Holland to Palmerston North next week to inspire Kiwi youth to join a worldwide movement.

Katie Lou, 15, is a member of British youth smokefree group D-MYST and is coming to Massey for a Smokefree Summit on Wednesday.

D-MYST's campaigns have included street demonstrations, petitions and calls for British soap operas to go smokefree on screen.

She will be joined in Palmerston North by smokefree health adviser from the United Kingdom's National Health Service Helen Casstles and New Zealand's Associate Health Minister, Tariana Turia.

A youth anti-smoking campaign was launched last year by Massey.

The nationwide "It's My Life" competition asked youth aged between 12 and 24 years to create a poster, video or app aimed at getting young smokers to quit in a bid to support the Smokefree New Zealand 2025 goal.

The summit is the final stage of the campaign where winners of the nationwide competition will be announced.

Summit project leader Associate Professor Elspeth Tilley said the summit was about conveying a serious message in a way young people would respond to.

"The aim of this whole project is to reach out to young New Zealanders and encourage them to become part of the global youth smokefree movement," she said.

"Nothing like that exists in New Zealand and Kiwi youth need to be part of the conversation."

Katie Lou said young people often started smoking because of outside influences like families, friends and what they saw on television.

"The media and celebrities can be hugely influential," she said.

Katie's smokefree activism was motivated by her mother's smoke-related health problems.

"Back in 2003 my mother had to have a huge operation in her chest area, that was quite horrific," she said.

"I remember visiting her in hospital and there were all these tubes everywhere and it made me want to do something to stop other families and friends having to experience that . . ."

For more information visit smokefree-itsmylife.org.nz.

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- Manawatu Standard

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