Encouraging findings on smoking prevention in Northern Ireland schools


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On Thursday 23rd June a research team from the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation will launch the findings of a randomised controlled trial evaluation of 'Dead Cool', a school-based smoking cessation programme.

The team is led by Professor Allen Thurston and represents a partnership between the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation (CESI) and the Centre of Excellence for Public Health Northern Ireland (COEPHNI). 

The Dead Cool smoking prevention programme was developed by Cancer Focus Northern Ireland and aims to encourage students to explore how young people can be manipulated by tobacco companies using product placement and subliminal advertising and how peers and families might influence decisions around smoking.  The programme also focuses on developing young people’s skills so they can plan what to do when they are offered a cigarette.  Teachers are trained by Cancer Focus NI to deliver the programme to their own classes using a specially designed resource pack which comprises teachers’ lesson plans, students’ workbooks and a DVD.

The evaluation team used a Randomised Control Trial design to explore how effective Dead Cool is in preventing young people from taking up smoking.  Twenty Year 8 school classes took part in the trial which was funded by Public Health Agency R&DO and Cancer Focus NI.

The results show that Year 8 students who received the Dead Cool programme were less likely to take up smoking throughout the school year or express and intention to smoke when compared with Year 8 students who did not receive the programme. Additionally, teachers and students found the programme resources enjoyable and easy to engage with.

Professor Allen Thurston, who led the trial said, “We know that by the end of Year 9, around 13% of children are smoking.  Half of the children who start to smoke, and continue, will die of a smoking related disease.  The results of this feasibility trial are very encouraging and suggest that the programme shows promise and warrants further attention.  Our next step is to obtain funding to carry out a larger scale trial to provide further evidence for the effectiveness of the Dead Cool programme”.

Gerry McElwee head of cancer prevention at Cancer Focus NI said 'Tobacco places an enormous burden on the health and wellbeing of local people. Cancer Focus NI has prioritised our vision for a smoke-free society as a central part of our Cancer Prevention Strategy. 

To that end we have developed and implemented a number of smoking prevention and cessation programmes for children, youth and adults.

We were privileged to work with QUB and the Public Health Agency on the evaluation of our ‘Dead Cool’ initiative.  We are delighted that the results show it is an effective tool in preventing young people from starting smoking and we look forward to rolling it out in all post primary schools”.

Invitation to Launch Event and Further Information

The launch will take place between 10.00am and 1.00pm at Riddel Hall, Queen's University Belfast. Please note that due to room size, places are limited. Please register by emailing Niki McKnight.

For further information on the trial please contact either Professor Allen Thurston or Dr Laura Dunne.


9.30 Coffee/Tea and registration


10.00 Roisin Foster, Cancer Focus NI

10.10 Dr Janice Bailie, HSC R&D Division, PHA

10.20 Professor Allen Thurston, QUB

10.30 Dr Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland


10.45 The Dead Cool Programme- Judith West

11.00 Why I would recommend Dead Cool-Teacher perspective

11.05 What I learned from taking part in Dead Cool- Student perspective

11.10 The Dead Cool Evaluation…and beyond- Professor Allen Thurston

11.30 Panel Discussion- Dr Laura Dunne


12.00- 13.00 Buffet lunch


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