Each day, 280 children in England start smoking. Two thirds of them will go on to be daily smokers.
To combat this rising epidemic, the NHS has been prescribing nicotine patches to kids as young as 11 to help them quit.
“Helping young smokers quit before they have done decades of damage to their health is to be applauded,” Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) tells Yahoo UK.
“GPs will only be prescribing nicotine to children who have come to them in desperate need of help.
“Nicotine patches and gum are highly cost-effective, and cheap when compared to the costly treatment these children could well go on to require for cancers, heart and lung diseases if they aren’t helped to quit.”
Watch: Vapes containing nicotine are more effective in helping to quit smoking than patches or gum, review finds
In 2019, the NHS gave out 1,994 prescriptions for nicotine patches or gum for those under the age of 17, according to the NHS Business Services Authority.
While the number of prescriptions given to those aged 11 was less than 10, 31 prescriptions were given to 12-year-olds, 73 to those aged 13, 240 to 14-year-olds and 557 to 15-year-olds.
If you are a parent who smokes and your child has started to smoke too, Arnott says the best thing you can do is to quit.
“Passive smoking damages your child’s health and children with parents who smoke are almost three times as likely to become smokers themselves,” Arnott adds.
“Seeing your parents smoke makes it feel more ‘normal’ and can make it easier for children to obtain cigarettes.”
If you are not a smoker and your child has started smoking, Arnott advises to talk to them about it to understand the reason why they are smoking.
“Explain the risks to their health as well as their pocket – smoking is addictive and expensive and once it’s become a habit it can take years to give up,” Arnott continues.
“And the health risks are not just long term but immediate, particularly with winter coming when smokers are much more likely to get the flu and serious respiratory infections.”
Visit nhs.uk/smokefree for guidance on how to quit.
Watch: Kate Thornton and Scott Mills call on smokers to join them in quitting