No Smoking Day

Age range: 13-18 (or older).
Suitable after 2 or 3 years of English.
Theme: Smoking and young people’s attitudes towards smoking.
Lexical area: smoking, the language of statistics (percentages), smell/taste
Cross curricular links: Personal and social Education.
Internet links:

Instructions for assistants are in italics.

  1. Bad habits

    Introduce this topic using exercise 1 or start with a brainstorm on the word smoking. What other words do they associate with smoking?

    Use the title “No smoking Day”: Why do you think they have this day in the UK? What do you think happens? Who participates? (you can then give a brief background idea to the day – see the official website).

    Take pictures of film stars and music performers with cigarettes. Do you think they look cool with a cigarette? Do you see cigarette adverts in your country? What image do they try to give? It might be best to avoid asking outright who smokes in the class but the discussion on habits will allow those who wish to confess and discuss openly.

    Start the lesson with a joke for a higher level group: 'Giving up smoking’s easy. I’ve done it hundreds of times!'

    a. Have you got any habits which annoy your friends or family? Biting your nails? Snoring loudly?
    b. Some habits can be described as addictions. What sort of things can you become addicted to?

    You could at this point see how much students know about the content of cigarettes. Which part of the cigarette is addictive? What sort of chemicals can you find in a cigarette? Note there is a class quiz on this on the official website which can be printed up.

    c. Have you ever tried to give up (stop) a bad habit? Was it difficult? Who helped you?

    These two questions are designed to anticipate the activities which follow and help you prepare the necessary vocabulary: peer pressure, health risks etc.

    d. Give two possible reasons why young people might take up (start) smoking.
    e. Give two possible reasons why people might want to give up (stop) smoking

  2. Young people and smoking

    a. Look at these sentences about young people’s smoking habits in the UK. Tick the sentences which are probably true.

    Students can predict in pairs and then check with the whole class, bringing out their own experience of smoking in their own country before you look at the true facts.

      More teenage boys smoke than girls (not true: the figures for girls are more alarming. The main reasons are that they think it is cool and it helps with weight control)
      Most smokers start in their early twenties (no, addictions start young as young bodies become more easily addicted to nicotine)
      English teenagers smoke less than French or German teenagers (Not true, hence the big campaigns in the UK)
      Every day around 350 teenagers under 16 start smoking (Yes, true)
      Most teenage smokers start smoking at parties with their friends (smoking in the school toilets or in the school yard are where most start: What about your host country?)

    To check students can read in pairs and check their predictions or dictate the sentences and they check as a listening exercise.

    b. Check the information with your teacher and the statistics: Which facts surprise you?
    c. Where might you find this type of information for your country? Do you think the statistics will be similar to those for teens in the UK?
    d. Write 3 sentences about young people and smoking in your country. Try to compare teenagers and older people.

      Young people and smoking in the UK- The statistics

      Every day around 350 children under 16 will start smoking
      Nearly 25% of 15 year olds are already smokers
      Most young smokers begin their habit inside school
      90% of smokers in the UK started before they were 18 years old
      Smoking amongst teenagers has increased in the last few years
      Among 15 year olds, more girls smoke than boys
      There are more young smokers (16 – 24 years old) in the UK than in France, Spain or Germany.

      Attitudes towards smoking around the UK

      “It’s no good telling your teenage son you are furious when he smokes. It is also no use talking about the health risks. I think it is best to try and tell them that smoking doesn’t look cool and it makes you smell”
      Parent of a teenage smoker

      “I’ve never smoked. It tastes horrible but loads of my friends smoke. It is not for me to tell them to give up. That’s their choice”
      17 year old girl, London.

      “Smoking does help me to relax after a hard day at school. My parents do it and they’re ok.”
      16 year old boy, Manchester

      “My Gran died of lung cancer. I think smoking should be banned from all public places, not just restaurants and bars. People can smoke in their own homes and not hurt others”
      15 year old girl, Glasgow.

      “What’s all the fuss? All teenagers experiment with new experiences. What’s wrong with trying cigarettes?”
      16 year old girl, Birmingham.

  3. Class survey – attitudes

    This exercise will help students practise making questions but the amount of close guidance depends on the level. A higher level can spend 5 minutes thinking of questions in pairs/groups but lower levels need to build their survey questions with you on the board. Use the vocabulary from the UK examples for questions:

    Do you think smoking should be banned in public places?
    Do you think it is an individual choice to smoke?
    Do your parents allow you or your friends to smoke at home?

    a) Look at the attitudes in the reading text towards smoking. Who is anti smoking? Who is a smoker? Who doesn’t care very strongly if people smoke or not?

    Do you agree? Do you disagree? Do you find similar attitudes towards smoking in your country? Is smoking becoming less acceptable in public places?

    b) Make questions to find out attitudes to smoking in your class. Find out information about smoking habits, family smoking habits, attitudes towards smoking in public places.

  4. Group decision making

    This can be done in pairs or small groups

    What would you do in these situations?

    a) Your friend’s parents are very anti-smoking. They find some cigarettes in his school bag. He tells them they are yours. You know this is not true. You are worried they will talk about this to your parents but you do not want to lose your friend.

    b) You go to a club every Friday with a group of friends. They have recently started smoking. You do not really want to smoke but they keep insisting that you smoke with them. You are starting to feel a bit different but you like going to the club with them.

  5. Discussion

    If you can get adverts for tobacco or media images of smoking for this task it will greatly enhance the discussion.

    a) Do you think it is a good idea to have a ‘No Smoking Day’? Will this persuade people to give up smoking? What other methods can you suggest?

    b) Is there a link between young people’s smoking habits and the media? Do you think photos of pop stars and film stars smoking influence teenagers? Does smoking have a ‘cool’ or glamorous image with young people in your country?

  6. Giving up - a campaign

    No Smoking Day on March 12th is aimed at all people who would like to give up smoking, including teenagers. A recent campaign on the UK island of Guernsey was so successful the numbers of teenage smokers were reduced by half. Methods used in the campaign were:

      All tobacco advertising was banned on the island
      Smoking is restricted to public places
      Teenagers of 16 can no longer buy cigarettes. They have to now be 18 years old.
      Cigarettes were taxed heavily
      All schools gave lessons on the dangers of smoking

    What methods could you use to help young people in your town or country to give up smoking? How can you reduce the numbers of smokers in your school? Give examples of two methods you will use in your campaign.

Further suggestions

  1. See the Manual section on using poetry for two poems to be used individually or together. Both poems suit this theme.

  2. The teacher’s section of the No Smoking Day web site has excellent printable activities suited to language learners: a quiz on the contents of cigarettes and the effect on health; a quiz on attitudes; an excellent magazine style problem page and a class survey.

  3. Ask artistic or creative students to design an advert for a No Smoking campaign in their country aimed at teenagers. It could contain dialogue, short text, a slogan and a photo or simply a drawing or image. Each group presents their design next lesson.


© British Council, The United Kingdom's international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We are registered in England as a Charity. Our privacy statement

Visit The British Council Website