• The equivalent of 127,500 people aged 18 to 25 pick up smoking each year
  • But three quarters of smokers said they never would not start if had choice again

By Xantha Leatham Deputy Science Editor

Published: | Updated:

Around 350 young adults start smoking regularly in the UK every day, new analysis suggests.

Research has found that the equivalent of 127,500 people aged between 18 and 25 pick up smoking each year.

The figures have been described as ‘devastating’ by experts, who warned that young people risk a ‘lifetime of addiction’ by picking up the habit.

They praised the Chancellor’s recent decision to hike the tax on tobacco, making it more expensive to buy a packet of cigarettes.

Once someone starts smoking, it takes an average of 30 attempts to stop and many never succeed, experts say

The Government has also announced plans to increase the age of sale for tobacco by one year, every year, preventing anyone born on or after January 1 2009 from legally buying cigarettes in England.

The analysis was carried out for Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) by researchers from University College London (UCL).

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said: ‘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.’

Once someone starts smoking, it takes an average of 30 attempts to stop and many never succeed.

Despite the majority of smokers wanting to stop, two out of three who do not manage to quit will die from their smoking, figures suggest.

Meanwhile three quarters of smokers said they never would have started if they had the choice again.

Dr Sarah Jackson, from the UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care, said: ‘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.’

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.’

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