New figures have revealed 19 children a day start to smoke in Northern Ireland.
The shocking statistic was released by Cancer Research UK today. It shows that almost 7,000 new schoolchildren aged between 11 and 15 start the deadly habit here annually.
A further breakdown shows that is approximately:
* 6,962 new childhood smokers a year.
* 580 a month.
* 134 a week.
* 19 a day.
The charity says the figures – part of its Setting The Standard campaign – led it to renew its appeal for the Government to put all cigarettes in plain, standardised packs.
Last April the Government launched a consultation on plans to introduce mandatory standardised packaging for tobacco products.
Standard packs have already been introduced in Australia, but in July the UK Government shelved its decision. It denied it was a U-turn saying it wanted to spend more time examining how the plans worked in Australia.
In May, the Republic said it will introduce plain packaging laws.
Every year, around 1,000 people in Northern Ireland are diagnosed with lung cancer and 890 people die from the disease.
Jean Walsh, Cancer Research UK's Northern Ireland spokeswoman, said more needs to be done to prevent children becoming addicted.
"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."
Health Minister Edwin Poots said he remains in favour of a "UK-wide approach" on the issue of standardised packaging.
Northern Ireland population: 1,810,863
Adult smokers in Northern Ireland: 343,551
New childhood smokers a year: 6,962
Per month: 580