A “classroom full of children” are lured into smoking every day and existing educational approaches just are not enough, a charity boss has warned.
Children in Scotland chief executive Jackie Brock said that while childhood smoking has been declining over time, recent estimates still show that many young people take up the habit, particularly in the most deprived parts of Scotland, with 36 children becoming smokers every day.
Ms Brock is a Champion of Scotland’s Charter for a Tobacco-free Generation run by campaign group Ash Scotland, which aims to stamp out smoking among young people.
The Charter, which was launched in 2010, hopes that by 2034, less than five per cent of the Scottish population will still smoke. Ms Brock said: “In Scotland in 2018 a classroom full of children gets hooked on smoking every single day. It’s shocking to me that we accept that a choice made by someone as young as 13 or 14 to smoke just one or two cigarettes can lead to decades of addiction, expense and ill-health.
“The majority of adult smokers started before they were 18, and almost nobody starts smoking after 25. If we educate young people and help them stay off cigarettes, we can solve this problem for good.”
She added: “We need to do more if we want to help children stay smoke-free. There are many great initiatives underway across Scotland in which young people play an active part in supporting their peers to stay away from tobacco. The educational materials ASH Scotland are producing are a great step forward, and I think every school and community groups could make use of them.” Ash Scotland statistics state that one in three adults in the 20 per cent most deprived areas in Scotland currently smoke cigarettes, while seven per cent of 15-year-olds and two per cent of 13-year-olds north of the border are regular smokers. Meanwhile, data also shows that very few older adults take up smoking, with 99 per cent of smokers having smoked their first cigarette before the age of 26.
ASH Scotland chief executive Sheila Duffy said: “We’ve got a responsibility to the next generation to take meaningful action against smoking. There are parts of Scotland where life expectancy is almost twenty years less than the national average, and a big part of that is down to tobacco. We can’t let this cycle continue.
“Everyone wants to see cigarettes out of fashion for the next generation.”