Smoke-free support. Development of participatory action on smoking in targeted youth work

(In Finnish: Savuton tuki. Tupakkatyön osallistava kehittäminen kohdennetussa nuorisotyössä)

Anne Puuronen


The aim of the report is to investigate employees’ evaluations of the use of tobacco products and intoxicants among the young people they encounter in targeted youth work, and also the attitudes to and relationship with action on smoking among the young people involved in outreach youth work and youth workshops. Young people’s needs and requirements regarding the promotion of participatory action on smoking were also studied. The aim was also to describe the development of models for preventative intoxicant abuse work that came up during the project cooperation modelling, and to assess how they can be used by association workers and in targeted youth work from the perspective of young people, employees and project workers.

Data and methods: A dialogical research approach, action research and social pedagogy education perspective were applied in the development work. To support the research and development work, a national questionnaire was conducted in the project to investigate the employees’ thoughts on the development of preventative intoxicant abuse work. The young people involved in the activities were also interviewed. A qualitative content analysis was used to analyse the research material.

Results: It is normal for the young people encountered in targeted youth work to both smoke and drink alcohol. The use of electronic cigarettes is a recent development, but they are not as popular. The use of snus is also uncommon. A positive attitude towards the use of cannabis is considered to have increased among the young people. Young people who do not smoke or use intoxicants are in the minority. According to the employees, young men/boys most frequently express a desire to talk about drinking, smoking and playing computer games. Young women/girls are considered to most frequently express a desire to discuss drinking, smoking and misuse of medication. Employees working within targeted youth work generally have a negative attitude to smoking by adults who work with young people. However, the operating environment seems to support young people’s use of tobacco products and smoking habits to some extent. At the same time, employees considered questions concerning the use of tobacco products to be of little importance. Participatory action on smoking is well suited to the group working methods, practical learning and strengthening of young people’s working life skills carried out at youth workshops. Participatory action on smoking offers young people a functional way of dealing with their relationship to not smoking and smoking.

Development suggestions: Key points for tailored action on smoking are, on the one hand, to offer support for quitting smoking, and on the other, to help those young people who do not smoke or use tobacco products to remain smoke-free. It is also important to intensify smoke free action that is used to change attitudes and practices within targeted youth work and ensure that it is a nicotine-free working and operating environment. In particular, employees’ work orientation should be developed, so that action on smoking is considered an important part of social strengthening work. In the training provided to employees, the following skills should be increased: ability to bring up matters, motivation, reduction of use and withdrawal. From the perspective of overall health promotion, nicotine addiction should be considered equally important as young people’s other risk prevention support needs. With regard to risk prevention, young people would like to receive support to help them reduce harmful effects and to have the opportunity to listen to experts with experience. The practical skills in preventative intoxicant and mental health work, and also employees’ abilities to provide youth-oriented action on smoking and intoxicant work utilising participatory methods should be strengthened in the studies and further education in the subject.