More young women are smoking as rate among young men falls

'Worrying' figures show the number of young women who smoke has increased for the first time since 2008

More young women are smoking, as rates among young men continue to fall.

22 per cent of women aged 25 - 34 smoke, up from 20 per cent the previous year, the latest survey on adult smoking habits published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals.

The proportion of women aged 16 - 24 who smoke has also increased to 21 per cent from 20 per cent.

One in ten babies was born to a mother who smokes.

But despite the increase in young female smokers, the number of smokers in Britain is at its lowest level on record, with 18.8 per cent of the population aged over 16 smoking.

Twenty per cent of men smoke, compared to 17 per cent of women.

Men aged between 25-34 have given up smoking in the largest numbers, with 26 per cent of them smoking in 2014, down from 30 per cent in 2013.

Of men aged 16-24, the proportion who smoke has dropped from 26 per cent to 25 per cent.

Men consume more cigarettes however, with the average male smoker aged between 25-34 smoking 10.3 cigarettes per day, compared to 8.8 by women smokers in the same age bracket.

Male smokers aged 60 or over have the highest daily cigarette consumption, smoking 14.6 per day on average.

"It is certainly worrying that more young women are taking up smoking”, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation Dr Penny Woods told PA.

”The introduction of drab standardised packaging from May this year should help tackle this, but more efforts are still needed.”

"Smoking cessation services - the most effective way of helping people quit - are under threat around the country due to budget cuts. If we want to continue helping people quit and look after their lung health, investment in these vital services must be protected."

The government wants the proportion of smokers to drop to 18.5 per cent by next year.

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The survey also revealed that only one in six tobacco smokers has switched to e-cigarettes.

Simon Clark, director of smokers' group Forest, disagrees with the Department of Health “spending even more money on policies that don't work”.

"What the government has to understand is that millions of people enjoy smoking and no amount of harassment will change that.”

"You can't outlaw pleasure and the more you tell people how to behave, the more they will dig their heels in. It's called human nature."