Anti-hero for the butt out message!

Clontarf Academy boys in Robinvale and Mildura have been the first to experience an encounter with Mallee District Aboriginal Services (MDAS) quit smoking “bad guy” Old Nico.

The larger than life character has been created by MDAS to help kids understand the negative effects smoking can have on their lives.

MDAS regional coordinator of tackling Indigenous smoking Nathan Yates said the Clontarf boys who took part in the first official student session were 14 to 16 years old.

“Old Nico is a villain and his appearance looks crappy – he looks the way smoking affects your body long term,” he said.

Mr Yates said an interactive website tool featuring Old Nico has also been developed as part of the MDAS quit smoking education program designed to be delivered to schools.

“It is more visual and young Indigenous people are more inclined to take it in,” he said.

“What we’re trying to do is to engage kids differently, simply because we’ve found the old approach isn’t working with young people.”

Mr Yates said despite a general reduction in smoking in the community, Indigenous smoking rates were not declining as quickly.

“We know that kids are actually taking up smoking around the ages of 12 and 13 and even younger and forming life long habits,” he said.

“It is important they make life long healthy choices.”

Old Nico’s website features statistical data factsheets, worksheets, puzzles and short video clips.

School students who use the online tool can learn about the devastating impact smoking can have on their health, including the brain, heart, lungs, mouth and genitals.

They will also learn smoking one cigarette a day will cost smokers $365 in a year, which is the cost of a new computer tablet.

Old Nico and his quit smoking education sessions are available to schools in Swan Hill, Kerang and Mildura.

The community can also access the program through the website and schools can use the online resource for classes for subjects such as health education.
MALLEE DISTRICT ABORIGINAL SERVICES  “Our Vision: Generations of vibrant, healthy and strong Aboriginal communities”

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