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Disparity in prevalence of young smokers

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The number of young people smoking has fallen The number of young people smoking has fallen consistently

Regional variations exist in the rates of adolescents aged 15 who smoke, a report released by the HSCIC has found.

In the North East of England, 8% of young people reported that they were regular smokers, compared with 3% in London, which has the lowest rate of young people smoking. The variations also exist in terms of young people who had ever tried a cigarette, with 32% of young people in Hartlepool and Sunderland reporting that they had experimented with smoking, compared with 14% in Richmond and Slough.

Amanda Sandford, of Action on Smoking and Health, said: 'The smoking rates mirror those of adults. So in areas such as the North East, we see more young people smoking than in other areas. Overall, however, the rates are low and the report is encouraging.'

The report also noted that girls were more likely to report current smoking than boys, with 10% of girls saying they smoked regularly compared with 7% of males. Girls were also more likely than boys to have ever tried smoking, with 28% reporting that they had experimented, compared with 21% of boys.

Ms Sandford added: 'Nurses have a real opportunity to speak to young people about smoking. Young people can get addicted very quickly, so it is very important for nurses to explain the dangers to young people.'

Overall, 8% of young people reported being current smokers while 18% had tried electronic cigarettes and 3% are current users of nicotine products other than tobacco. There has been a consistent fall in the number of 15-year-olds smoking, with the government's target of reducing smoking among young people to 12% by 2015 having been achieved.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health, said: 'Smoking among young people is continuing to decline but one in 12 young people are still smoking by the age of 15. If we are to succeed in achieving the smoke-free generation called for by the health minister Jeremy Hunt, there is still much more to be done.'

The What about YOUth survey is a newly-established survey designed to collect robust local authority (LA) level data on a range of health behaviours in 15-year-olds. This is the first report to be published from the survey.

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