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Shock of Dorset's 3,500 children who smoke
8:53am Wednesday 13th March 2013 in Latest
MORE than 3,500 Dorset children between the ages of 11 and 15 are risking their health by smoking, shocking figures have revealed.
Health experts are calling on the government to act, claiming that tobacco companies are deliberately targeting youngsters in a bid to recruit new smokers.
Dr Adrian Dawson, public health director for Bournemouth and Poole, said national quit campaigns such as today’s No Smoking Day had met with some success with adults.
But he added: “The trouble is that it’s a conveyor belt. Before you know it, you have another group coming through because they started smoking when they were kids.
“It’s less normal now to see adults lighting up. Over the last three or four years, the tobacco companies have been increasingly targeting youngsters. You can see packaging that now looks the size of iPods.
“They have glitter on the packs and use words like ‘cool’ and ‘slim’ that appeal to kids.”
Eight out of 10 adult smokers acquired their habit as children or teenagers. Research shows packaging with devices such as shiny holograms, bright colours and eye-catching images attract young people to certain brands.
Earlier this year, Smokefree South West led the launch of Plain Packs Protect, the first northern hemisphere campaign against the way tobacco companies market their products.
The campaign wants the UK to follow the lead of Australia, which recently banned designs and logos from tobacco products and beefed up health warnings.
Fiona Andrews, director of Smokefree South West said: “Most non-smokers have not looked at a cigarette pack in years and when they do many are astonished and horrified by how they now mimic those iconic possessions teenagers love best.”
Every year, another 340,000 children in the UK try smoking for the first time.
In Bournemouth and Poole an estimated 1,520 youngsters aged 11 to 15 smoke, and in the rest of Dorset a further 2,057.
A survey of young people in the south west found nearly 80 per cent thought selling cigarettes in plain packs would make it easier to smoke less or quit.
Pregnant mother of two Billie Dolling, 25, of Branksome, Poole, said: “For people who already smoke, it’s not going to make any difference. I’ve been smoking for about 10 years. I can’t even remember why I started. You just do it because everybody else does.”
Unemployed grandmother Marie Dolling, 49, of Poole said: “It probably wouldn’t have put me off. I was 15 when I started. These days people go for the cheaper cigarettes. I haven’t tried to give up, but I’m thinking of it because I suffer really badly with asthma.”
Vikki Highfield, 27, unemployed of Weymouth, said: “The pictures might put you off, but you ignore it if you are already a smoker. I think it’s to do with the circles you hang around in and peer pressure. I would be devastated if my son, who’s three now, started smoking.”
Mother of one Tasha Highfield, 23, said: “I took up smoking at 14. People start when they’re young because they think it’s cool. I’m fully aware it’s disgusting and gross and you end up smelling. If my daughter started smoking I would feel really angry.”