Almost 16,000 children under 16 will start smoking during the Stoptober campaign to get people to kick the habit.
Around 567 children aged 11 to 15 take up cigarettes each day in the UK, meaning more than 15,800 young people will start during the 28-day challenge.
Now, as people trying to kick the habit move into the second week of the national initiative, a warning has gone out that starting young can lead to a lifetime of addiction.
According to Cancer Research UK, which provided the figures on children taking up the habit, around 40% of regular adult smokers started before they turned 16.
Helen Atkinson, Surrey County Council’s Director of Public Health, said: “It’s never too early to stop smoking. Lighting up as a child or teenager often leads to young people joining the next generation of tobacco addicts so it’s vital that we continue to hammer home the message that not smoking in the first place is the right choice for a healthy lifestyle.”
Dr Claire Knight, Health Information Manager at Cancer Research UK, said: The cost of smoking is immense – financially and socially. Starting smoking at a young age greatly increases the risk of lung cancer. This is why we strongly support plain, standardised packaging of tobacco as a way to help reduce the attraction of the cool glamorous cigarette packets designed to encourage young people to take up this deadly habit.”
Michael Gosling, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health and the Health and Wellbeing Board said: “While cigarettes are going out of fashion, smoking is still the biggest single cause of preventable early death. The best way of turning that around for good is encouraging young people not start smoking.”
Free support is available for anyone who wants to quit. To read about Surrey dad Kevin Hayes’ efforts to stop during Stoptober, follow this link.
Visit www.surreycc.gov.uk/stoptober or http://www.healthysurrey.org.uk/your-health/smoking/stoptober for more information about quitting. Alternatively call the Surrey Stop Smoking Service on 0845 602 3608. Last year 160,000 people stopped smoking in Stoptober.