Press Article: North East smokers start aged 15 - 14 Oct 2010
North East smokers start aged 15 - 14 Oct 2010
A shocking new survey of North East smokers shows the average age they started was just 15 - leading to claims from health experts that smoking is our biggest childhood addiction.
The findings also reveal North East smokers are desperate for their children not to follow in their footsteps, with 86% saying more needs to be done to prevent children from getting hooked in the first place.
Fresh released the survey results today to mark an event funded by Northumbria University into ways of turning off the tap of young smokers, involving health experts and councils from around the region.
• The average age smokers admit to starting is 15 – but many younger
• 86% of smokers say the North East needs to do more to prevent children from starting to smoke
• 92% of smokers say they regret ever starting smoking
• Over 52% of smokers say their children nag them to stop smoking
Ailsa Rutter, Director of Fresh, said: “It’s an appalling fact that most smokers start as children. This clearly shows that addiction to smoking is not an adult choice but our ultimate childhood addiction.
“The tobacco giants have huge marketing budgets and target young adults through social networking sites like Facebook and at major music festivals to create a buzz. It goes without saying children are also attracted to this and a teenager from a bedroom in Byker can now log on and find out all about a cigarette-sponsored music festival in the Far East where their favourite band or DJ is playing.
“It’s not surprising so many smokers want more done to protect their children. This event will show some of the excellent work that’s already taken place in the North East, as well as giving young people themselves the chance to have their say.”
Dr Robert, Allcock, Divisional Director for Medicine at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead, said: “Becoming addicted to cigarettes reduces a person’s life expectancy by twelve years. Few parents want their children to suffer this harm.
“A civilized society should not allow public health to be undermined by influence from an industry which knowingly sells a product that kills half of its customers, 80% of whom became addicted to their products when they were a child.”
The proportion of young people who try smoking and who become regular smokers has declined over time. Nationally, the prevalence of regular smoking among 11 to 15 year olds has reduced since its peak in the mid 1990s – which was 13% in 1996.
In the North East , figures from the NHS Information Centre show:
• 6% of boys and 14% of girls aged 11-15 now smoke regularly (at least one cigarette a week)
• 35% of boys and 49% of girls say they have ever smoked
The event will share best practice in trying to reduce teenage smoking. Among the sessions include research carried out among young people in Durham, the role of the tobacco industry and a pilot project of an anti-smoking initiative in Newcastle schools called The Truth where young people learned more about the tobacco industry.
Lesley Geddes, Principal Lecturer in Public Health at Northumbria University, said: “The Truth Project was an innovative theatre-in-education programme which gave local young people an opportunity to explore the influence of the tobacco industry.
“We found that nearly all of the young people understood more about the tobacco industry as a result, and that it provided a fresh and new approach to raising tobacco control and smoking issues with young people.
“This event will be an ideal opportunity to share the evaluation’s findings and make a difference to the practice of everyone with a stake in reducing smoking and improving the health of young people.”
Around 10,000 people in the North East have so far backed the Fresh Make Smoking History for Children campaign.
It is estimated that, every year, around 200,000 children and young people start smoking in England nationally , while children who live with parents or siblings who smoke are around 90% more likely to become smokers themselves than children of non-smoking households and it is estimated that, each year, at least 23,000 young people in England and Wales start smoking by the age of 15 as a result of exposure to smoking in the home.
Other influences include tobacco advertising which fosters positive attitudes towards smoking. There is also a growing body of evidence suggesting that teenagers may also be influenced by viewing smoking in films. There is also strong association between smoking and other substance use. The 2009 secondary school survey found that pupils who had taken drugs at least once in the previous year had more than 11 times the odds of being regular smokers compared with pupils who had never taken drugs. Similarly there is strong association between smoking and alcohol consumption, with the odds of being a regular smoker increasing with the number of units drunk in the previous week.
The cost of smoking to the UK was recently estimated to be up to £16.2 billion a year in the Cough Up report by the Policy Exchange think tank. It states that every cigarette smoked is costing the UK money, including:
• Between £2.7bn and £5.2bn for treating smokers on the NHS
• £9.5bn for the loss of economic output to the economy from smoking breaks, absenteeism and the loss to the economy from the deaths of smokers.
• £342m for the cost of cleaning up cigarette butts
• £507m for the cost of smoking related house fires
• £713m for the cost of treating passive smokers.<%GET /wcms/Press/List.aspx HTTP/1.1 Accept: image/gif, image/jpeg, image/pjpeg, image/pjpeg, application/xaml xml, application/vnd.ms-xpsdocument, application/x-ms-xbap, application/x-ms-application, appli