Charity warning over young smokers
Almost 160,000 children start smoking every year in the UK - enough to fill around 5,200 classrooms, a charity has warned.
The 157,000 children aged 11 to 15 who take up the habit every year could also make up 14,000 junior football teams, according to Cancer Research UK.
The charity, which supports a move to plain packaging for tobacco, says eight out of 10 people start smoking before they are 19 and more must be done to prevent youngsters starting.
The data refers to the proportion of children in an age group who were smoking a year after first saying they were smokers.
Almost a million under 15s - more than a quarter (27%) of all children - have tried smoking at least once .
Among 12-year-olds alone, 1% were smoking regularly in 2009, another 2% smoked occasionally and 2% said they used to smoke. A year later in 2010, as 13-year-olds, 3% of children smoked regularly, 2% smoked occasionally and 4% used to smoke.
Jean King, Cancer Research UK's director of tobacco control, said: "Far too many young people start smoking every year. We must act to bring this number down.
"The tobacco industry spends a great deal of money on designing cigarettes and their packets so they seem glamorous, appealing, fashionable and attractive in an effort to recruit more customers.
"With advertising outlawed, the cigarette packet is now the most important marketing tool the tobacco industry has.
"Our research has shown that selling all cigarettes in standardised packs will help reduce the appeal of smoking and give children one less reason to start smoking."