Primary school children joined forces with members of the Welsh rugby squad today to call on people to Quit for Wales as part of a major campaign to reduce smoking rates in Wales and save lives.

Members of the squad took time out from training ahead of Friday night’s international against Tonga at the Millennium Stadium to support ASH Wales’s Quit for Wales campaign which aims to get smokers across Wales to try a quit attempt and share their reasons why, to inspire others.

The campaign will also highlight the need for more investment in quit smoking services in Wales for vulnerable groups such as young people, pregnant women, and those with mental health difficulties to ensure everyone gets the right support.

The children, from Barry Island Primary school in the Vale of Glamorgan, have recently designed their own no smoking sign for their local playground and the perimeter around their school.

Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Roger Lewis said: “We’re delighted to give our backing to ASH Wales and the Quit for Wales campaign. We fully support their efforts to help people give up smoking and we want everyone in Wales to have the help and support to quit.

“Smoking is a deadly addiction that kills thousands of people a year in Wales and we applaud each and every person who is trying to give up, whether it’s for their health or their family’s. We want to see a healthy and active Wales where every single person can reach their full potential and for our children to enjoy a smoke-free future. Join the Quit for Wales campaign and share your reason for quitting

Ex-smoker Howard Hughes from Ystrad Mynach will appear alongside smokers and ex-smokers in ASH Wales’s short campaign film which will be shown ahead of the Wales v Australia international on November 30th,

Howard said: “It’s not easy to quit but I’ve joined the Quit for Wales campaign because I’m hoping my story will encourage others to try giving up. I’m so excited to be in ASH Wales’s campaign film and for it to go out in the Millennium Stadium is a fantastic opportunity to reach so many people.

“I smoked from about 17 until I was 35 and was on 20 a day at the end,” said Howard. “I had tried a number of times to quit, succeeding from a few days to 6 months at one stage. As a nurse, I knew all the risks, I gave stop-smoking advice, but still couldn’t give up.

“I started noticing pins and needles in my fingers when smoking more heavily and was aware of the peripheral neuropathy that can result from small vessel damage – this was my cue, so I went cold-turkey and managed to do it.

“If I could only give one piece of advice it would be this - everyone I talk to who re-starts smoking has a good excuse. Whenever I was craving, I’d find myself looking for an excuse; something to blame. There are no excuses that warrant re-starting, it’s just another way of kidding yourself.”

Elen de Lacy, chief executive of ASH Wales said: “It’s fantastic to get the support of the Welsh Rugby Union for our Quit for Wales campaign and we hope that their support will inspire some of Wales’s half a million smokers to make a quit attempt. Smoking is killing more than 5,000 people every year in Wales and we need to give people every opportunity to help them give up. This campaign is all about getting people to support each other and to inspire others by sharing their quit stories and we’re urging everyone to make their pledge on or on social media using the hashtag #quitforwales