It is estimated that each year around 207,000 children in the UK start smoking.1 Among adult smokers, about two-thirds report that they took up smoking before the age of 18 and over 80 per cent before the age of 20.2 The latest survey of adult smokers shows that almost two-fifths had started smoking regularly before the age of 16.3
Children who experiment with cigarettes can quickly become addicted to the nicotine in tobacco; they may show signs of addiction within four weeks of starting to smoke and before they commence daily smoking. In a 2012 survey of schoolchildren in England, 46 per cent of those who had smoked for less than a year say they would find it difficult to stop for one week, compared to 82 per cent for those who have smoked more than a year. During periods of abstinence, young people experience withdrawal symptoms similar to those experienced by adult smokers.4
Nurses need to be aware of the support that the NHS offers, and that a combination of behavioural support and medication will greatly improve a young person's chances of stopping and staying stopped (see table).