Smoking has been shown to be a childhood addiction, not an adult choice. The majority of smokers start while in their teenage years with very few new smokers beginning after the age of 20. It is estimated that approximately 207,000 children aged 11-15 start smoking each year in the UK, with 13% of 15-year-olds classified as regular or occasional smokers.
Many factors contribute to an increased likelihood of young people starting to smoke. These include whether a parent, carer or sibling smokes, the level of exposure to tobacco industry marketing, tobacco imagery in the media and the availability of cheap tobacco. Lower socio-economic status, higher levels of truancy and substance misuse are also associated with higher rates of youth smoking.
Young people who smoke can be particularly susceptible to negative health effects, in the short and the long-term, including respiratory illness and poorer lung function. Smoking can also impair lung growth in children and young people.
Wiltshire Public Health team aims to create positive influences in the schools; home and the local community to prevent young people from taking up smoking.