Figures from the annual Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use Among Young People in England survey show that around 207,000 11 to 15-year-olds take up smoking every year in the UK.
The survey also found that most adult smokers start smoking before they are 19, suggesting they are most impressionable at a younger age.
Now Cancer Research is urging the government to commit to plain, standardised packaging of tobacco products to make them look less appealing to young people.
Sadly, half of all long-term smokers die from tobacco-related illnesses, which cause 100,000 deaths a year in the UK alone.
While talks have taken place regarding the issuing of standardised cigarette packaging across the UK, a decision has yet to be made.
Research shows that children are less likely to be tempted to smoke when cigarettes come from plain packaging. This is because attractive branding entices them in with certain messages.
Sarah Woolnough, executive director of policy and information at Cancer Research UK said: “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.”
Public Health Minister Anna Soubry has expressed concern at these latest figures and says the government maintains an ‘open mind’ about standardised cigarette packaging and whether or not it will prevent young people from smoking.
On the other side of the fence the Tobacco Manufacturers Association has said the percentage of children who smoke in the UK is lower than it’s ever been, at just 5%.
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