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Press Release

Every day 350 young adults aged 18-25 start smoking regularly

09 Mar 2024

New analysis for Action on Smoking Health by UCL researchers suggests that each day in the United Kingdom approximately 350 young adults aged between 18 and 25 start smoking regularly. That amounts to 42,500 since the King’s speech announced legislation would be tabled to raise the age of sale from 18 by one year every year from 2027 onwards, making an annual total of 127,500. [1]

Once someone starts smoking, on average it takes thirty attempts to stop, and many never succeed. [2] Two out of three people who do not manage to quit will die from their smoking. [3] The majority of smokers want to stop (54%), and three quarters would never have started if they had the choice again. [4]

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health:

“It is shocking to realise that hundreds of young adults start smoking every day, risking a lifetime of addiction. Raising the age of sale is vital if we are to put an end to the dreadful toll of disease, disability and premature death caused by smoking. We urge the government to put the Bill to parliament before the Easter break. Time is running out if the legislation is to pass before the general election.”

Dr Sarah Jackson, (UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care):

“Most people take up smoking when they’re young and don’t intend for it to become a life-long habit. But they quickly become addicted and then find it very difficult to quit in later life. Smoking at any age has severe health consequences, but these are particularly pronounced among those who start young. Raising the age of sale will lead to fewer young adults taking up smoking and reduce the burden of smoking-related death and disease for the next generation.”

Steve Brine MP, chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee:

“Disturbing new figures showing 127,500 young adults aged 18-25 become addicted to smoking each year is yet further evidence that the Prime Minister is on the right side of history with plans to raise the age of sale for tobacco. He has the support of the public and parliamentarians, and he must now turn words into action and put the Bill to Parliament.”

Dr Ian Walker, executive director of policy at Cancer Research UK, said:

“Smoking causes around 150 cancer cases every day in the UK and it’s devastating to see this data, which estimates so many young adults still take it up. That’s why passing the age of sale legislation as quickly as possible is so critical. We look forward to seeing the Government present the legislation and urge all MPs to support this world-leading measure so that we can help create the first ever smokefree generation.”


Notes to the Editor

Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see: ASH receives funding for its programme of work from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

Contacts: Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive, Hazel Cheeseman Deputy Chief Executive are available for media interviews.

To speak to Dr Sarah Jackson or Dr Harry Tattan-Birch from the UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care who carried out the analysis, please contact Mark Greaves, UCL Media Relations. T: +44 (0)7985 208 992, E:


[1] Analysis by UCL available on the Open Science Framework at:

[2] Chaiton M, Diemert L, Cohen JE, Bondy SJ, Selby P, Philipneri A, Schwartz R. Estimating the number of quit attempts it takes to quit smoking successfully in a longitudinal cohort of smokers. BMJ Open. 2016.

[3] Banks E, Joshy G, Weber MF, Liu B, Grenfell R, Egger S, Paige E, Lopez AD, Sitas F, Beral V. Tobacco smoking and all-cause mortality in a large Australian cohort study: findings from a mature epidemic with current low smoking prevalence. BMC medicine. 2015 Dec;13(1):1-0.

[4] DHSC. Policy paper. Stopping the start: our new plan to create a smokefree generation. Results from an Opinium online survey for Public Health England. Nationally representative sample of 2,000 English smokers aged 18+. August 2021.