Young smokers run with the risk of cancer

Clare Garner finds youngsters ignoring the dangers

Of course they could stop smoking if they wanted to, but why should they?

For many pupils at Crofton School, in Lewisham, south-east London, the harmful effects of the habit do not strike a chord.

Boredom, peer pressure and a belief that smoking is "no more dangerous than anything else nowadays" mean that, for some, only the death of a close relative would do the trick.

Six-a-day Louise Auguste, 15, smokes because her friends smoke. She thought about giving up once, but to no avail.

"My auntie was in hospital from a collapsed lung. Mum said I should stop smoking because I might turn out like that. I was scared and told her I was going to give up, but I didn't. It wasn't like dying so I didn't think it was that bad. If someone died in my family I would give up."

But for Michelle Walsh, 15, who switched to Benson and Hedges when she arrived at the mixed comprehensive because everyone else smoked that brand, even a family death didn't make her give up.

"My dad's auntie died of lung cancer. I was going to give up then but I changed my mind. When I came back to school and saw everyone smoking I thought: `Oh well, never mind, try again another time.'

And if cigarettes went up to pounds 5 a pack? "I'd be poncing off everyone else. I certainly wouldn't be buying them myself," said Michelle, who smokes to stay slim. "You can smoke instead of eat," she enthused.

A smoker since the age of 11, Deborah Holtham, 17, has smoked more in the last year than ever before. "Since it's been legal I've smoked more and my mum knows now so it's easier," she said.

Deborah knows the risks, but reasons: "You could get run over crossing the road."

There are things that are far worse for you, she says, like drugs. "Drugs kill straight away. With smoking it's a gradual thing so you can find out and stop. There's nothing that would make me give up - unless I found out I'd got lung cancer. If they cost pounds 5 a packet I'd just have to make them last."

To Sam Knight, 14, smoking one cigarette is "like taking a few mouthfuls of the pollution in London on a hot day".

Nathan Wilson, 12, is having none of it. As one of the school's official "peer educators", he preaches the dangers of smoking to his friends, all of whom smoke. And Melissa Sheppard, 12, also a peer educator, is adamant: "If I'm offered a cigarette by friends I say, `No. I'm just a better person. I'm not that stupid'."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Digital Optimisation Executive - Marketing

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's fastest growing, multi...

Recruitment Genius: Financial Reporting Manager

£70000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Financial Reporting Manager i...

Recruitment Genius: Payments Operations Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They win lots of awards for the...

Recruitment Genius: Telephone Debt Negotiator

£13500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This nationwide enforcement com...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral