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Five children start smoking every week in Winchester
FIVE schoolchildren in Winchester start smoking every week, according to figures released by a leading cancer charity.
There are 12, 877 smokers across the Winchester district, with an estimated 261children joining them every year, some starting before they reach eleven years of age.
Overall, 71 Hampshire children aged 11 to 15 start smoking every week, thereby running the risk of being affected by these illnesses.
With over 25,546 young people smoking in the South East and around 9,800 people diagnosed with cancer every year, Cancer Research UK is calling for extra support to be provided to stop children smoking.
The statistics, based on surveys by the National Foundation for Educational Research and NatCen Social Research, are being used to spearhead the charity’s Setting the Standard campaign — a renewed appeal for the Government to force tobacco companies to adopt plain tobacco packaging rather than branded packs likely to appeal to youngsters.
Around 13,000 people died prematurely from cancer, heart disease, strokes, lung disease or liver disease between 2009 and 2011.
Cancer Research UK spokeswoman, Helen Johnstone, said: “The excitement of starting a new term is in stark contrast to the reality of the number of children who will start smoking every day.
“With many 11-year-olds starting secondary school for the first time, it’s imperative that we try to help our local youngsters by setting the standard and protecting them from tobacco marketing.” But support can only help so far, according to the Quit4Life NHS service. Peer pressure and a reluctance from young people to quit all contribute to an increase in young smokers.
Since last October, 129 people under the age of 18 reportedly went to the service, with a mere 18 recorded as having quit, equating to only a 14 per cent success rate.
A spokesperson said often young people will be brought in by parents and grandparents because they simply won’t go in themselves.
Quit4Life runs a weekly drop-in session at the River park Leisure centre on Thursdays from 6-9pm.
Young smokers are most prevalent in Southampton, where 17 — more than two a day — take up the habit, while 15 start smoking each week in Portsmouth.
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