A new campaign by the NHS features doctors, former smokers and ex-footballers encouraging people to attempt to quit in January
There are 5.3 million adult smokers in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Nick Hopkinson, a professor of respiratory medicine at Imperial College London, said their research suggests children between the ages of 14 and 17 are three times more likely to take up smoking if people around them smoke.
He added: “We know that most people who smoke start smoking as teenagers, and taking up smoking at a young age is linked to a greater risk of health problems later in life.”
Former Premier League and England goalkeeper David James also shared his experience of exposure to cigarettes as a child.
“I smoked for about 15 years, and at the time it was normal,” he said.
“My mum smoked, my friends smoked, it was around me. It didn’t take long for me to be hooked.
“Looking back, it had a huge impact on my health and performance at the time, I wish I never started.
“My health, my children and my fans were huge motivators for me to quit – I didn’t want younger people to see me smoking and think it was OK.”
According to the NHS, about 76,000 people die every year from a smoking-related illness, with many more living with debilitating smoking-related conditions.
England’s chief medical officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty said: “Smoking causes many serious diseases that affect people throughout their lives.
“Stopping people becoming addicted to smoking and helping those who have been addicted to quit are two of the most important measures we can take to improve health.
“Quitting will improve your health whatever your age and no matter how long you have smoked. It’s never too late to stop.”
Public health minister Andrea Leadsom said “no other consumer product kills up to two-thirds of its users”.
The launch of the NHS campaign comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak vowed to create a “smoke-free generation” with new legislation that would essentially prevent anyone who turns 14 this year from ever buying cigarettes.
The move was announced in October and the consultation on the proposed Tobacco and Vapes Bill – which will also explore measures to tackle the rise in use of e-cigarettes among children – closed earlier this month.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), said: “Over three quarters of the public support the Prime Minister’s ambition to create a smoke-free generation.
“Legislation to end cigarette sales to anyone born on or after January 1 2009 will be crucial to delivering that ambition. But as role models for their children, parents who smoke can play their part too.
“Stopping smoking will not only improve their health and put money in their pocket, but also significantly increase the chances their children will grow up to be part of the smoke-free generation.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub