New study reveals hundreds start smoking every day – and Turks, Turkish Cypriots and Kurds are the heaviest of the lot.
AS MANY AS 600 teenagers take up smoking in Britain every day, a new study has revealed, with the Turkish-speaking communities well above the national average.
The study, conducted jointly by Imperial College London and Cancer Research UK and published in the British Medical Journal, has exposed the terrible extent of cigarette addiction in the UK among children aged between 11 and 15.
It has also emerged that around half of Britain’s Turkish-speaking communities indulges in the habit.
Figures from Haringey and Enfield Councils in London, where the majority of the community lives, revealed that 55 per cent of men and 45 per cent of women are smokers – both well above the national average of 22 per cent. In Enfield, just 20 per cent of the population are smokers.
The same report also put a price on the cost of smoking. It found that discarded cigarette butts, house fires, passive smoking, NHS care, regular smoking breaks, reduced lifespans and lack of productivity costs Enfield £72.2 million and Haringey £73.1 million.
It is these costs that have led to council-led campaigns to encourage people to quit. 1531 people ditched the habit in Enfield in 2011/12, while the quitters in Haringey numbered 2124.
Smoking at a young age affects lung development and boosts the risk of progressive lung disease.
And people who start smoking before the age of 15 run a higher risk of developing lung cancer than those who take up the habit later on, even if the cumulative number of cigarettes smoked is smaller, they add.
The analysis indicated that among the 3.7 million children aged between 11 and 15 in the UK, an estimated 463 start smoking every day in England, with the equivalent figures for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, 55, 30, and 19, respectively.
Of 74,000 children in this age group in Birmingham, nine take up smoking every day, while the daily tally in London is 67 out of 458,000 children in this age group.
Researchers wanted to estimate smoking uptake among children, to provide some baseline data to inform efforts for preventive measures, and focus attention and resources on what is “essentially a child protection issue.”
The researchers based their analysis on data taken from the 2011 ‘Smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England’ survey, which targets school children in England between the ages of 11 and 15 every year.
Questionnaires were completed by 6519 children in 219 schools.
And by comparing the numbers of current smokers – regular and occasional – with smoking rates among the same age band surveyed the previous year, the researchers were able to estimate the numbers of new 11 to 15 year olds starting to smoke in 2010-11 in the UK.
To calculate the number of new child smokers for each locality, this estimate of 207,000 was then split across geographical areas according to population size and smoking prevalence among adults, on the assumption that there would be more child smokers where the proportion of adult smokers was high. Parental smoking is one of the strongest predictors of smoking among children.
This means increasing taxation, curbing smuggling as a well as banning smoking in cars and introducing plain packaging to reduce children’s exposure to branding, they say.
“Smoking is among the largest causes of preventable deaths worldwide,” they write. “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,” they conclude.