Forty-seven children between the age of 11 and 15 start smoking every day in the West Midlands, shocking figures revealed today.
Charity Cancer Research UK revealed the figures as part of its Setting the Standard campaign to highlight the ongoing scale of the tobacco problem.
Charity bosses said the figures underlined hoe important it was for the government to commit to an anti-smoking campaign to discourage young people from taking up the habit.
They said that plain packaging should be introduced to make it less appealing to youngsters.
Paula Young, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the West Midlands, said: “The excitement of starting a new term is in stark contrast to the reality of the number of children who will start smoking every day.
“In Wolverhampton and the Black Country 3,856 children start smoking every year. That’s around ten a day. In the West Midlands region this rises to 17,261 children every year – that’s 47 every day.
“With many 11-year-olds starting secondary school for the first time next week, it’s imperative that we try to help our local youngsters by setting the standard and protecting them from tobacco marketing.
“That’s why we are renewing our appeal to the government for cigarettes to be sold in plain, standard packs rather than in the glitzy branding that make cigarettes more alluring to young people.”
Figures show that eight out of 10 adult smokers start by the age of 19 and around 27 per cent of all under 16s have tried smoking at least once, which is the equivalent of one million children across the UK.
Standard packs have already been introduced in Australia, but they have yet to be introduced in the UK.
Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s Tobacco Control Lead, said: “The Government’s delay to bring in standard cigarette packs will cost lives. Doing nothing is not an option when 567 children take up smoking every day in the UK.
“There is no doubt that urgent action is required to stop branded cigarette packaging and reduce the number of children who start to smoke”