Young People & Tobacco

Most people start smoking and become addicted to nicotine when they are still children. Those whose parents or siblings smoke are around three times more likely to smoke than children living in non-smoking households.  Children who start smoking at the youngest ages are more likely to smoke heavily and find it harder to give up. These smokers are at the greatest risk of developing smoking related diseases.

Although around three quarters of teenagers in England report that they have never smoked, among those who do experiment with smoking many become addicted to nicotine and continue to smoke as adults.

The Children and Families Act 2014 enabled the Secretary of State for Health to introduce regulations to further protect children from tobacco. These included a ban on smoking in cars when children are present, a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to children, and the prohibition of proxy purchasing, i.e. the purchase of tobacco or e-cigarettes by adults on behalf of children. These measures entered into force on 1 October 2015. In addition the introduction of standardised tobacco packaging from May 2016 is intended to protect children from tobacco promotion.

Throughout Great Britain, it has been illegal to sell tobacco to people aged under 18 since October 2007. Previously the minimum age was 16. In Northern Ireland, a ban came into effect in March 2012.

Youth access laws on tobacco will not reduce youth smoking prevalence on their own. The biggest effects on youth smoking result from policies such as high tobacco prices, smokefree laws and bans on tobacco advertising.

The Department of Health undertakes  surveys about young people’s smoking behaviour. This includes detailed information about England’s youth smoking rates and where young people obtain cigarettes.

Article 16 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control requires nations that have ratified the treaty to ban the sale of tobacco to young people under 18. Governments are also required to take other measures such as:  preventing tobacco products from being easily accessible, prohibiting the sales of single cigarettes and small packs, and banning free distribution of tobacco products. Some countries have also banned the manufacture and sale of sweet and toy cigarettes.

Each year the Smokefree Action Coalition organises an event for young people on the margins of the BAT AGM in London.

Young People and Smoking

Since the late 1990s smoking among 11-15 year olds has been steadily falling after two decades of little change. Children are more likely to smoke if their parents smoke and parental attitude to smoking is also an important factor. September 2019. Download here.                    

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What About Youth – survey consultation

ASH’s response to a consultation on the What About Youth survey.

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Young people demand the return of “blood money” at Imperial Tobacco AGM

Wednesday 03 February 2016 Today a group of young people and public health advocates demonstrated outside the Imperial Tobacco’s AGM. Dressed as Count and Countess Tobacula and other vampires, they were protesting against the huge profits of the industry and calling on the company to return “blood money” to society. Imperial Tobacco, the fourth largest […]

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Foster care, adoption and smoking

A joint briefing from ASH and the Fostering Network. Jan. 2016

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ASH response to consultation on Smoking Drinking & Drug use survey

ASH response to a HSCIC consultation on the Smoking Drinking & Drug use among young people survey.

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ASH response to consultation on age of sale for electronic cigarettes

ASH response to a Department of Health consultation on age of sale for electronic cigarettes.

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‘You’ve got to be kidding’

A compelling dossier of BAT’s activities in promoting its tobacco products to young people around the globe.    

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Danger! PR in the playground: tobacco industry initiatives on youth smoking

Tobacco companies have adopted a public posture of opposition to teenage smoking. This report reveals why this stance amounts to little more than a sinister and cynical public relations strategy.

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