Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Smoking behaviour in North West school children

smoking-north-westThe Centre for Public Health has published a report on research they’ve done on smoking amongst 15 and 16 year olds in the North West.

Amongst their key findings were:

  • 58.2% had tried smoking and 22.5% were current smokers. Of these, 15.7% were regular smokers and 6.8% reported smoking cigarettes only when they drank alcohol.
  • Across all those who had smoked, mean age of initiation was 12.9 years. Those starting smoking at an earlier age smoked more cigarettes a day than those beginning smoking at a later age.
  • Binge drinking was the strongest predictor of smoking. The odds of smoking were over nine times higher in those binge drinking at least once a week compared to non- or moderate (i.e. non-binge) drinkers.
  • Over half of young smokers report having purchased cigarettes containing foreign health warnings.
  • A quarter of 15 and 16 year old smokers reported purchasing fake cigarettes.

I’ve turned some of their data into the following graph, which if you click on it should take you to a larger version.


What I take from it are that it looks like we should be doing prevention work on tobacco at the ages of 15 and 16, and within that focusing on girls and alcohol consumption could also be helpful.

The authors find that the predictors for being a current smoker amongst this age group were:

being female, having no hobbies, having a greater amount of weekly spending money, drinking more than once a week, binge drinking and having parents who smoke. The strongest predictor of smoking was binge drinking.

The predictors for being a heavier smoker (more than 5 cigarettes a day) were:

not having a hobby, having higher weekly spending money (>£20), frequent binge drinking (once a week or more) and having parents who smoke.

In terms of preventing the uptake of smoking the authors highlight the role that parents can play:

our findings and those elsewhere suggest that parents can have a positive influence on young people’s smoking behaviour through disapproving of smoking, being supportive, communicating with children and being involved in young people’s free time.

They go on to say:

Overall, there is little evidence that smoking prevention interventions impact on the uptake of smoking among young people and the effectiveness of access reduction programmes in particular are dependent on enforcement and the level of retailer compliance. However, multi-component measures that include youth access interventions, taxation, community policies and proof of identity schemes can be more effective in influencing smoking among young people. Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Exellence (NICE) recommend such programmes and suggest that mass media and point of sale measures, to prevent the uptake of smoking among young people should be combined with other prevention measures such as price and regulation controls, education programmes, cessation support and community programmes, as part of a comprehensive tobacco control policy.

They conclude:

Our findings suggest advising parents to improve monitoring of their children’s spending and providing more opportunities for young people at risk of smoking to be involved in out of school activities would be important components of strategies to reduce smoking among young people.


Filed under: tobacco

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