The harmful effects to health caused by smoking are well known, and its prevalence in the adult population of the UK is declining. Alarmingly, this is not so for children, where in the last decade the prevalence of smoking remained the same - and even increased slightly for girls.
This report (published in 1992) gives the facts about children smoking, including the numbers who smoke, why they smoke and the harmful physiological effects of smoking which are present at an early age.
Once they have started to smoke, children become addicted to nicotine very quickly and continue the habit into adult life. Most adult smokers started to smoke before they were 18 years of age. The report describes the pressures on children to smoke. It stresses the importance of teaching them refusal skills and sets out strategies for stopping children smoking.
The wide ranging recommendations in this report are directed to parents, schools and education authorities, health professionals and health promotion agencies, tobacco retailers and both local and national government, all of whom have a role to play in preventing children from smoking - or, just as importantly, convincing them that they derive no gain from doing so.
The report also stresses the proven dangers of passive smoking which exist even before birth if the mother smokes. Maternal smoking in the UK has been associated with miscarriages, a quarter of cot deaths, and retarded physical and mental development in children. The report therefore recommends improved education for pregnant women on the hazards of smoking.