Stock photo diverse group of students learning in a classroom



INTENT is a smoking prevention programme. It works by targeting adolescents who have never smoked prior to its delivery. INTENT reduces smoking initiation by first getting adolescents to engage with anti-smoking messages, then creating Personal Plans (or “Implementation Intentions”) about how to refuse an offer of cigarettes.

Implementation Intentions are specific “if...then” plans which focus on how, where and when to perform a behaviour. Many people have good intentions about their health (think New Year’s resolutions) but in reality, only about 50% of these good intentions translate into action: they might fail to get started, get de-railed or willpower simply fizzles out.

Implementation Intentions involve people thinking through in advance specific situations they will encounter (e.g. “if my friend doesn’t want to go for a run with me”) and forming a definite plan to ensure the intended behaviour will actually happen (e.g. “then I will go alone and run to my new playlist”). A meta-analysis of several studies has shown that these “if… then” plans reduces the intention-behaviour gap, and improves rates of performance of health behaviours. By forming a concrete plan about a specific situation, this situation is processed and becomes activated in our brain. This means that we have a better, faster memory of the right thing to do when we’re in that situation for real.

Reduces smoking initiation

Reduces smoking initiation

4 year groups, ages 11-15

4 year groups, ages 11-15

From less than £1 per student

From less than £1 per student

Implementation Intentions in INTENT

INTENT works by raising students’ motivation or intentions to not smoke, then getting them to form concrete plans for what to say/do when confronted with a cigarette offer. For example, “If Callum offers me a cig on the way home, then I’ll say ‘no, I’m ok thanks. It messes with my asthma’”. Or, “no thank you.  Smoking is a mug’s game.” The combination of raising motivation/intentions to not smoke and creating implementation intentions to not smoke may be a particularly powerful combination for students who don’t have a good reason to avoid to smoking (e.g. it will interfere with sport) and those who have low intentions or low self-efficacy not to smoke – all of which are high risk factors for smoking.

INTENT is for 11-to-15-year-olds. It is comprised of 8 lessons; 2 sessions per year for 4 years to sustain messages and allow Personal Plans to be created as students move through school.  A crucial step is that students will write down their implementation intention, and over time we would expect them to be bespoke to the individual student, even if some younger students might start of by choosing from some suggested examples. It can be fully implemented by teachers in classroom time in any school, thus giving it wide potential reach. It is also affordable , simple and easy to deliver with each of the 2 annual student sessions lasting an hour each.


  • iconEvidence-based and equally effective across all demographic groups
  • iconCost-effective, from as little as £1 per student, depending on the number of student participants
  • iconSustainable and asset-based
  • iconFew administrative resources required to manage INTENT.
  • iconQuality Assurance built-in.
  • iconTargets 4 consecutive school year groups.
  • iconOnly 2 hour-long sessions per year
  • iconHigh quality interactive whiteboard materials for teachers and students
  • iconMinimal training required for teachers
  • iconSimple to deliver to students
Results image


INTENT’s efficacy and effectiveness has been tested in 3 studies over 15 years. Most recently, it was evaluated in a cluster Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) which tracked more than 6000 students over a 4-year period. The trial which was published in 2019 found that INTENT reduced smoking initiation by 6.5% in 15-16-year-olds, 4 years after the start of delivering the intervention. 25.6% of the students that received INTENT were less likely to report having ever smoked than those that did not participate in the programme. Importantly, INTENT was found to be equally effective across all demographic groups, e.g. low socioeconomic status or ethnic minority groups.

73% of the teachers that participated rated the programme sessions as good or high quality.

INTENT was also found to be extremely cost-effective, with the analysis revealing an Incremental Cost Effectiveness Ratio (ICER) of £205 per smoker avoided at age 15–16 years based on ever smoking assessment. That means that the programme cost £205 in preventing each additional student from not taking up smoking at the end of the 4-year programme.

While INTENT does not target vaping behaviour specifically, the results from the trial also indicated that students that received INTENT were less likely to progress from vaping to smoking cigarettes than those that did not.

less likely to smoke


less likely to smoke
of teachers rated INTENT as high quality


of teachers rated INTENT as high quality
per smoker prevented


per smoker prevented

Our Offer

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4-year licence
Initial training for your team icon
Initial training for your team
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Electronic materials for schools
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Quality Assurance
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Dedicated customer area on website
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Evidence image


Here are the key academic publications showing the evolution of INTENT from pilot study to evaluation in an effectiveness study.  


Evaluation image

How do we know it will work? Can we conduct our own local evaluation of the programme?

INTENT was created and evaluated by a group of academics led by the University of Leeds and funded by a Medical Research Council (MRC) grant. Researchers conducted a 4-year long pragmatic Cluster Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) with schools from Leeds and Staffordshire comparing 25 schools that received the intervention against 20 schools that did not. After attending a 45-minute training session with the researchers, over 250 teachers in 25 schools were involved in delivering the intervention to students twice a year for 4 years. At the end of the trial, students smoking behaviour, vaping behaviour, teachers perceptions of INTENT and the cost-effectiveness of the programme were investigated.

As INTENT was evaluated as part of a rigorously conducted trial, we can be certain of its effectiveness. Thus, schools , or Local Authority commissioners, do not need to conduct their own evaluation.  


How does the programme work?
What content does it cover?
Could the programme be available as an app?
Does INTENT cover vaping?
Is it just applicable to mainstream secondary schools?
How do I access the programme?
What does a licence include?
How will we know if it has been successful?


  • “It's always nice to have material somebody else has produced to deliver in lessons and I thought because the material was relevant and because the material was attractive to the students that they would respond to it well, and without a doubt, you know, across the board, that's what they did”

    ~ Participant 5, PSHE lead, intervention, 26-29

  • “I found it fascinating to teach and to be involved with and I thoroughly enjoyed doing it with my coaching group”

    ~ Participant 8, history, intervention, 284-285

  • “Certainly the big thing that stood out was that the resources and the stuff that we’d got through was actually really comprehensive and really easy to follow and use. Speaking to colleagues and other staff members, I don’t think anyone’s come across and said that they were particularly difficult to use or didn’t enjoy teaching them”

    ~ Participant 10, Science lead,  401-405

  • “It was so engaging, there was so much food for thought [..] I mean everything, part of it in terms of health, in terms of finance, in terms of various different things that came from it”

    ~ Participant 8, History, intervention, 219-222

  • “I think the ones where you like relate it back to like stress or stuff like that, that’s quite interesting, especially like when we’re like doing, we’re in high school and we’re at like our GCSEs. It kind of is more interesting to learn about stuff like that, than the whole like, the getting your health kind of thing, ‘cos we do know about a lot from primary school”

    ~ Intervention student, school 10, 299-302

  • “I feel like, because we were sort of left more to sort of like discuss it with each other, it made us feel like more adult and not be, like when we were younger. We were sort of just like “oh what do you guys think?” sort of discuss it in your groups. You felt like when you were hearing what everyone else thought it’s sort of like that you were an adult and that you were being treated like one”

    ~ Student school 18, 319-324

Contact us to prevent young people taking up smoking in your area:

21B Somerset Square
Nailsea, Bristol
North Somerset
BS48 1RQ

Tel: +44 (0) 7973 241125



INTENT is created by the University of Leeds and licenced to Evidence to Impact.

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