Young artists from Waitakere College and Massey High School have been inspired to communicate a smokefree message to encourage youth to stop smoking or, better still, to never start.

In New Zealand, the average age of people who initiate smoking is around 14-15 years and these youth have been leading the way to communicate a by-youth for-youth smokefree message using digital technology as well as more conventional art mediums. Messages include a variety of innovative sketches, memes, raps, dance routines and drama skits - all designed to keep young people smokefree. Some students completed their entries during art class curriculum time. The project enables student leadership and action around health and wellbeing issues to drive a positive change in the school and wider community.

The project was developed in partnership with Waitemata District Health Board and Healthy Families Waitakere who want to prevent the rise of youth smoking rates. Students from the Waitakere College Pasifika Medical Science Academy formed a Smokefree Movement Committee with support from Medical Sciences Director Jane Coup to design and develop their own version of the competition where they led the promotion, chose the judging panel and the prizes.

"This competition was a fantastic way, not only for our Pasifika Medical Science Academy to make an authentic change within our school, but also for our wider-school community to have a voice on a health issue that affects many of our families,” says Jane Coup.

Healthy Families Waitakere Activators Sophia Bloomfield and Jayshree Ramesh-Sukha supported the students to gather youth insights on smoking before and after the competition and provided support to develop and implement the competition.

One Massey High School student said they liked knowing they are making a difference being involved in the competition “I liked working with friends for an issue that is current in our community”.

Image: Pacific Health Academy students and members of the Smokefree Movement Committee