SIX people a day die from smoking-related diseases in Northern Ireland, experts have warned.
Despite the shocking figures 19 children under 16 are still taking up the deadly habit daily here.
Two-thirds of all smokers start before the age of 18, with one in every two dying early.
Ahead of No Smoking Day tomorrow, leading cancer charities are repeating the message that now is an opportunity to quit, not just for their own health, but also for the people around them.
Smoking is the single greatest cause of preventable illness and premature death in Northern Ireland, killing around 2,300 people each year – six people every day on average. Of these deaths, approximately 900 are as a result of lung cancer, which is now the most common cause of cancer death for both men and women.
Regardless of the well-documented dangers of smoking, figures from Cancer Research show almost 7,000 new schoolchildren aged between 11 and 15 start the deadly habit here annually.
A further breakdown shows that there are approximately:
- 6,962 new childhood smokers a year.
- 580 a month.
- 134 a week.
- 19 a day – just under the size of an average school classroom.
Aside from lung cancer, other cancers caused by smoking include throat, mouth, bladder, kidney and oesophagus.
As well as cancer, smoking causes heart disease, stroke, lung diseases including emphysema and bronchitis, chronic airway obstruction and diabetes.
Experts at Action Cancer also said the dangers of being exposed to second hand smoke can cause a number of serious medical conditions including lung cancer, heart disease, asthma, childhood respiratory disease and sudden infant death syndrome.
Frances Dowds, health promotion manager at Action Cancer said: "As two-thirds of smokers start before the age of 18, a lot of our health promotion work focuses on prevention.
"This No Smoking Day we are highlighting the impact of smoking to encourage those in the 18.6% of the Northern Ireland population who currently smoke."
For more information contact 028 9080 3344 to find out about Action Cancer's schools' programme, or to book an MOT health check online go to www.actioncancer.org.
Most common cancers
Most common forms of cancer in Northern Ireland:
1. Breast cancer: Around 1,300 cases in women each year in Northern Ireland and around 340 deaths each year
2. Bowel cancer: There are around 1,200 cases each year here and around 410 deaths each year
3. Lung cancer: Around 1,100 cases each year and around 910 deaths each year
4. Prostate cancer: Around 1,000 cases each year and around 230 deaths each year
5. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma: Around 340 cases and around 130 deaths each year