Research published today has attempted to quantify how many children start smoking ever year in the UK. Using data from the Smoking Drinking and Drug Use Survey the study compared smoking rates for 11 to 15 year olds between the latest two years of the survey. This gave an estimate of 207,000 children starting smoking every year across the whole of the U.K. Incorporating data on adult smoking prevalence, the study was also able to break this estimate down by Local Authority, so that public health attention can be appropriately focused at the local level.
Although there is some uncertainty around these estimates, they represent our current best guess of the uptake of a leading cause of death, which has even more serious health impacts if started in childhood. Although smoking prevalence has declined in the last 30 years, this trend may be stalling and these estimates should add weight to calls for stronger action on smoking, and contribute to the current review on standardised packaging for cigarettes.