570 children start smoking each day

smoking cigaretteThe Smoking Time Machine smartphone app could not have emerged at a better time it appears after new research suggests that approximately 207,000 11 to 15-year-olds take up smoking every year across the UK. This is the total number from 2011 according to Cancer Research UK – up from 157,000 in 2010.

Broken down, this statistic equates to 570 youngsters lighting up their first cigarette every day in the UK, a staggering statistic and especially when considering the legal age to purchase tobacco products is 16.

The shocking figures came from the annual Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use Among Young People in England survey.

Following Cancer Research UK’s study of the smoking habits of children in 2010 and 2011, they also found that nearly one in three (27%) under-16s have smoked at least once. This works out at one million children and with eight out of 10 adult smokers beginning prior to turning 19, clearly something needs to be done.

With that in mind, the charity is now calling for all cigarettes to be sold in plain, standard packaging. Australia became the world’s first country to implement this innovative anti-smoking plan in December 2012. The legislation forced all tobacco company logos to be banned from packages and instead replaced by bland, dreary green/brown-coloured packaging with accompanying unpleasant text and photographic warnings.

There is also concern about the addictive nature of cigarettes, with impressionable children initially beginning to smoke and then finding it hard to quit, which will continue into their later years.

The 2010 survey discovered that none of the 12-year-olds were regular smokers, 1% smoked occasionally and 2% said they used to smoke.

However just a year later and within the same group of children, 2% were regularly smoking, 4% smoked occasionally and 3% said they used to smoke. It is believe that around 50% of all long-term smokers will succumb to a smoking-related illness, adding up to 100,000 deaths a year.

Cancer Research UK claim that research shows children regard plain packaging as unappealing and are with such packaging are probably unlikely to be misled by sophisticated marketing that aims to make smoking seem an attraction proposition.

Sarah Woolnough, the charity’s executive director of policy and information, said: “With such a large number of youngsters starting to smoke every year, urgent action is needed to tackle the devastation caused by tobacco. Replacing slick, brightly coloured packs that appeal to children with standard packs displaying prominent health warnings is a vital part of efforts to protect health. Reducing the appeal of cigarettes with plain, standardised packs will give millions of children one less reason to start smoking.”

Public Health Minister Anna Soubry, added: “It’s worrying that these figures show that more 15-year-olds are trying cigarettes. We have consulted on introducing standardised packaging, looking at whether this could reduce smoking in young people. We have an open mind about this. Any decisions to take further action will be taken only after full consideration of the consultation responses and evidence.”

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