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Children are rejecting smoking and e-cigarettes


Children are turning their backs on smoking tobacco in significant numbers, a Government survey reveals.

Only one in six children (16%) aged 11-15 admit to have ever tried smoking, a substantial decline compared to 1996 when nearly half (49%) had tried cigarettes. 

The survey by NHS Digital of secondary school pupils in England mostly aged 11 to 15 also showed that the proportion of children trying e-cigarettes (25% of pupils) has not increased since 2016 and vaping remains largely concentrated among those who are already smokers. 

In 2018, 5% of pupils were classified as current smokers. Though not significantly different from the surveys in 2014 and 2016 (6%), the proportion has generally declined over time since 1996, when 22% of pupils were current smokers. The proportion of current smokers increased with age: from less than 1% of 11 year olds to 11% of 15 year olds

However pupils who smoke regularly tend to see themselves as dependent on the habit. 61% of regular smokers reported that they would find it very or fairly difficult to not smoke for a week, while 74% reported that they would find it very or fairly difficult to give up smoking altogether.

The Government’s aim, set out in its tobacco control plan published in 2017, is to reduce the number of 15 year olds who regularly smoke to 3% or less by 2022. 

PCRS Executive Chair Noel Baxter says: “These statistics show that e-cigarettes have not been a gateway to tobacco smoking. The reason appears to be that in the UK, e-cigarettes are not considered to be cool to young people - they see them as something that older tobacco smokers use. It does need close monitoring though as e cigarette companies have successfully reached this market internationally and particularly in the USA.”