Smoking: Teenage girls get nicotine habit

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The Independent Online
Smoking levels among girls aged 11 to 15 are at their highest level for 15 years, according to a survey. The number of young teenage girls who smoke has increased steadily over the past decade and they are now more likely to do so than boys.

In 1996, 15 per cent of girls in this age group were regular smokers and more than half had smoked at some point. This compared with 11 per cent who smoked regularly in 1982. The findings from the Office for National Statistics survey of secondary school children in England sparked fresh concern about young people's health. Donald Reid, chief executive of the Association for Public Health, said: "The rise in smoking among children is a major disaster for public health.

It will lead to increased deaths from cancer, heart disease and smoker's lung in the long run, and to the loss of limbs from smoker's gangrene by the age of 30, in some cases. Girls who become pregnant while smoking risk losing their babies - smoking is implicated in 4,000 miscarriages, 400 still births and 300 cot deaths annually."

The survey - Smoking Among Secondary School Children in 1996 - found 13 per cent of secondary schoolchildren aged 11-15 were regular smokers. In 1996, 11 per cent of boys in this age group smoked regularly and 53 per cent said they had never smoked. In Scotland, 14 per cent of 12 to 15-year-olds were smokers in 1996, compared with 12 per cent in 1994.