YOUNG people across Wirral are being asked to put into verse how they feel about the dangers of smoking.
A poetry competition, timed to coincide with the anniversary of when smoking in public places was banned, has been launched with the help of local schools.
Youngsters will be encouraged to write about how smoking affects them in an effort to influence older relatives who smoke.
The best poems will win some top prizes, including a signed Tranmere Rovers FC shirt and football and a one-month family swim pass for use at any council-run pool in the borough.
The time when smoking was allowed inside pubs and other public places now seems like a distant memory. It has made for a more pleasant – and less harmful – environment for people to spend their time.
However, second-hand smoking continues to cause harm in other places.
Nationally, an estimated 95% of deaths from exposure to second-hand smoke are from exposure in the home and 40% of children live with at least one smoker.
Evidence suggests that children who grow up in a smoking household are 90% more likely to smoke later in life. 18,000 young people across the North West take up smoking every year.
Even if adults aren’t smoking directly in front of children, the harmful effects of smoking can linger in rooms long after the cigarette has been stubbed out as 80% of cigarette smoke is invisible and odourless which means youngsters may still be breathing in damaging chemicals without anyone realising it.
Wirral Council and Wirral Community NHS Trust have been working together on a Smokefree Homes campaign for the past few years.
And, as the seventh anniversary of the ban on smoking in public places approaches on July 1, they are seeking to further raise awareness of the issue by launching a poetry competition among local young people.
They will be asked to articulate in their poems how important it is for them – for their own health and out of concern for their loved ones – that the grown-ups think about their smoking and its wider effects.
Councillor Christine Jones, Wirral Council cabinet member for adult social care and public health, says: “By now, I think most people are aware that direct exposure to second-hand smoke can be extremely harmful, but people don’t necessarily realise that the risks remain in the room even after they have finished smoking.
“More than 80% of cigarette smoke is invisible, and opening windows and doors does not remove its effect. Residual substances, including toxins, build up wherever smoking takes place, on surfaces, skin and furnishings.
“Children are especially vulnerable to the effects as they breathe faster, which means they take in proportionately more toxins per body weight than older people, and their immune systems are also not as well developed.”
Through their poems, expressing how they feel about people smoking where they live, it is hoped that young people will be the inspiration for those closest to them to either think about where they light up when at home, or think about giving up altogether.
Many schools in Wirral already promote this message with some going a step further actually hosting “Stop Smoking” sessions for parents.
The competition is open to any young person aged between eight and 14. You don’t necessarily have to enter through your school, but please let your parents or carer know you’ve entered.
Entries need to be around the theme of smoking and can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. The closing date is July 13.