UK & World News
Hundreds Of Under-16s Start Smoking Every Day
Almost 600 children aged under 16 take up smoking every day in the UK, research has suggested.
A survey of secondary school pupils in years 7 to 11 (children mostly aged 11-15) estimated there were 207,000 new child smokers between 2010 and 2011.
The Health and Social Care Information Centre said the figures, published in the journal Thorax, were particularly high in London.
"Each day, 67 children, more than two classrooms full, start smoking in London," said the experts, who included specialists from Cancer Research UK and Imperial College London.
An estimated 463 children start smoking every day in England, with 50 in Scotland, 30 in Wales and 19 in Northern Ireland.
The experts said: "Smoking is among the largest causes of preventable deaths worldwide.
"The present data should help to raise awareness of childhood smoking and to focus attention on the need to address this important child protection issue."
People who start smoking before the age of 15 have a higher risk of lung cancer than those who start later, they said.
The team also pointed to "compelling evidence" that young people are susceptible to branding and advertising and are influenced by the depiction of smoking in films.
The experts said: "Legislation is needed to counter the efforts of the tobacco industry, but this requires political will by legislators at both national and local levels."
Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: "Although the thought of nearly 20 classrooms full of children taking up smoking every day should be shocking, the sad thing is that it comes as no surprise.
"It is even sadder to think that, at current rates, half of these children are likely to eventually die as a result of their habit if they continue smoking."