Catch Your Breath – the smoking and vaping programme for schools

Catch Your Breath

The Healthy Schools Stop Smoking and Vaping Service provides CATCH YOUR BREATH – the FREE school based smoking and vaping programme for young people in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Whilst there is a focus on prevention and universal delivery to Upper Key Stage 2 students via a 90 minute interactive workshop, both targeted cessation interventions as well as prevention assemblies can be delivered to Key Stage 3 and 4 students. The ultimate goal is for there to be a co-ordinated whole school approach taken by both the secondary schools and their feeder primaries to discourage smoking and vaping behaviour.

Further support can be accessed via ASH (Action On Smoking and Health) to review and develop school policies on vaping as well as smoking: ASH resources for local authorities, schools and parents on youth vaping – ASH

Prevalence of vaping and smoking

Vaping among young people has increased in 2022 compared to 2021. However, use among never smokers remains low and mostly experimental. Likelihood of trying or currently using vapes increases with age and smoking status.

The latest data from the ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) Smokefree GB survey of 11- to 18-year-olds show that in 2022:

  • a large majority of 11-17 year olds have never tried or are unaware of vapes (83.8%)
  • 8% of 11-17 year olds have tried vaping, compared to 11.2% in 2021 and 13.9% in 2020
  • 0% of 11-17 year olds are current users (including occasional and regular vaping*), compared to 3.3% in 2021 and 4.1% in 2020
  • 4% of 11-15 year olds have tried vaping, compared to 29.1% of 16-17 year olds and 40.8% 18 year-olds
  • among 11-17 year olds who have never smoked, while 7.5% have tried vaping, only 1.7% report at least monthly use
  • use of disposable vaping products has increased substantially, with 52.8% of current vapers using them in 2022, compared with 7.8% in 2021 and 5.3% in 2020
  • current smoking prevalence (including occasional and regular smoking*) is 6.0% in 2022, compared with 4.1% in 2021 and 6.7% in 2020.

*Occasional vaping or smoking is defined as more than once a month but less than once a week; regular vaping or smoking is defined as more than once a week.

ASH factsheet, July 2022: Use of e-cigarettes among young people in Great Britain

Key points on vaping and young people

  • Vaping can help smokers quit smoking, but it isn’t harmless and is not recommended for young people under 18.
  • In the UK there is a minimum age of sale for vaping products. It is illegal to sell nicotine vaping products to anyone under 18 or for adults to buy them on behalf of under-18s.
  • Retailers found to be selling either nicotine vapes or tobacco products to under-18s can be reported to local authority Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Online Portal.
  • It is important for young people to know the facts about vaping so they can make an informed choice. This includes the absolute risks of vaping and risks relative to smoking, as well as the law on sales and proxy purchase.
  • The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) will continue to monitor the evidence on vaping among young people, alongside that on smoking.

Key vaping messages for young people

  • Vaping is a way for adults to stop smoking – not something for non-smokers, especially children and young people to try
  • Vaping is substantially less harmful than smoking but that does not mean it is harmless
  • In the UK it is against the law to sell nicotine vaping products to under-18s or for adults to buy them on their behalf
  • Vaping exposes users to some toxins and we don’t yet know what the risks might be in the longer term
  • Some vapes contain nicotine, an addictive substance which can be hard to stop using once you’ve started
  • Nicotine may be more risky for young people than for adults, as evidence suggests that in adolescence the brain is more sensitive to its effects.
  • Some disposable vapes on sale are illegal and do not meet UK quality and safety regulations.

Advice for parents, carers and professionals working with children

Parents, carers and anyone working with children can make sure young people understand the health facts about vaping and know about vaping and the law. Young people can find out more on the FRANK website.

NICE guideline NG209 recommends a coordinated whole school approach to smoking and vaping. It also recommends that as part of the curriculum on tobacco, alcohol and drug misuse, children, young people and young adults who do not smoke should be discouraged from experimenting with or regularly using vapes.

Most young vapers also smoke or have smoked. According to the 2022 ASH Smokefree GB youth survey, only 42.1% of 11-17 year-olds believe that vapes are less harmful than cigarettes. It is important for educators to recognise, and communicate to young people, that the level of risk from smoking is far greater than vaping, so that the two are not confused.

ASH has developed guidance for schools and colleges, to help Designated Safeguarding Leads and others develop consistent, evidence-based policies on vaping.

OHID is working with the PSHE Association and others to develop resources to support teaching on vaping and smoking. Details will be circulated when these become available.

The Primary School Smoking and Vaping Prevention offer includes a FREE 90-minute workshop designed for Y5/6 pupils to raise awareness of the risks associated with smoking and vaping.

Through participation in the workshop, the pupils will be encouraged to make a response to the following questions:

  • What do you know about cigarettes/ E-cigarettes and vapes?
  • What is nicotine?
  • What is peer pressure/peer influence?
  • Why do young people choose to smoke or vape?
  • What are the risks of vaping?
  • What are the harms of smoking on the body?
  • What could you say to help someone give up smoking or vaping?

All resources, including a pupil workbook, will be provided free of charge including leaflets for the parents outlining the funded healthy lifestyle services that are locally available to them. There is also the option of a parent workshop hosted on the school site by the Healthy Schools team so that parents can have the opportunity to ask questions and find out how they can access smoking cessation support if necessary.

Click here to ask any questions or to arrange a meeting to discuss delivery options.

To access the following resources, request the password here

  • Primary – 90 Minute Workshop – PowerPoint
  • Primary – 90 Minute Workshop – Delivery Guide
  • Primary – 90 Minute Workshop – Pupil Workbook
Primary Resources   


Whole School Approach

The secondary offer has been developed in response to feedback from schools on how to positively support young people aged 11 – 18 who are known to be smokers/vapers. It is being delivered FREE of charge into secondary schools in conjunction with the Healthy Schools Service. The aim is to provide a referral pathway for any young person who either wishes to quit smoking or vaping or would benefit from some dedicated advice and information on the potential risks of these behaviours as well as the associated regulations. For Healthy Schools Officers to visit your secondary school for delivery, there is a requirement for the school to adopt a whole school approach which aims to discourage students from starting smoking and vaping as well to provide proactive support for those who have.

The cessation programme consists of:

  • Behaviour therapy sessions (approximately 30 – 40 mins in duration, delivered in a small group with a minimum of 4 pupils.)
  • 1:1 consultation as needed and on request if the Healthy Schools Officers are already on the school site.
  • Guided referrals (for students age 12+) into the Healthy You Stop Smoking Service for anyone needing nicotine replacement therapy.

The focus of the cessation programme is on providing non-judgemental support to empower young people to make informed decisions as well as changes to their behaviour.

The prevention programme

In view of the increasing number of students who are starting to vape or expressing an interest in doing so, there is an urgent need for schools to take some preventative action. The Healthy Schools, Stop Smoking and Vaping Service can support in the supply of:

  • A Vaping Presentation and Teacher’s Guide which can be delivered as an assembly by a member of the Healthy Schools team or in Tutor Group time by a member of school staff. The presentation is designed to raise awareness of the potential harms of vaping and therefore enable the students to make informed decisions in the future.
  • A Vaping Training Package for Teachers and School Staff which can be delivered in approximately 20 – 30 minutes by a member of the Healthy Schools team or completed individually using the presentation and accompanying questionnaire. The training covers the various packaging of vapes, trends in vaping behaviour and current legislation.

For more information or to arrange an informal meeting about delivery click here.

Mentor Programme

The Mentor Programme is a student-led smoking and vaping prevention programme. It is based on a framework of peer mentorship, and it is delivered in line with current NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) best practice guidance. The 1-day Mentor training (targeted at Y8 and Y9) encourages young people to explore the different reasons and motivations their peers may have for smoking/ vaping and to subsequently champion the importance of being smoke/vape free. The mentor programme also includes workshop sessions for delivery by the mentors to Y7 students as well as to Y6 pupils as part of the transition process.

Whilst the Healthy Schools team is available to support the delivery, the materials can, of course, be implemented independently if preferred and as part of the school’s overall PSHE programme.

To register your school’s interest for the Mentor Programme please click here

To access the following resources which support the delivery of whole school approach to smoking and vaping please request the password:

Secondary Resources   


Resources for young people, parents and carers

FRANK – information on vapes

Key vaping information

The effects vaping has on the brain

Is it ok to vape underage?

Healthy You Fact Sheets

Smoking – Time’s Up

Vaping – Do you know?


Resources for parents and carers section

Times Radio report – How Social Media is getting your kids addicted to vaping

Citizens Advice Portal – Yellow Card Scheme

Important Facts on the Risks of Vapes for Kids, Teens, and Young Adults

Dangers of vapes – How to talk to your kids about them

Smoking – Time’s Up


Vaping – A guide to the law and trading standards

Vaping – A parents guide to the dangers of vaping

Vaping – A guide for parents


Local Support

Healthy You

Healthy You has been commissioned and funded by Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council to provide a range of health and active lifestyle services for people in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. The FREE services for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough residents who are looking to make changes to their lifestyle, include:- Stop Smoking Falls Drink Less Weight

Read More About Healthy You

Life Education Cambridgeshire & Peterborough

Life Education is a primary prevention programme focusing on drug and health education. We explore with young people how amazing their bodies are and how the human body can be affected by drugs. We develop understanding around physical and mental health. Through the ‘life skills’ approach, children are enabled to practise how to make healthy

Read More About Life Education Cambridgeshire & Peterborough