New map predicts UK youth smoking

youth smoking map

Map shows prevalence of youth smoking

New figures released today estimate smoking rates among young people in local areas for the first time.

Modelled by University of Portsmouth and the University of Southampton and commissioned by Public Health England and NICE, the figures are estimates of youth smoking rates for every local authority, ward and local NHS level – based on factors known to predict young people smoking.

The data will help local organisations to respond to high levels of smoking within their areas and will be available on PHE’s Local Health website.

Dr Liz Twigg, University of Portsmouth, said: “We know with some certainty which factors increase the likelihood of young people starting to smoke – ethnicity, social class and parental behaviour all play a role. For the first time we can combine these factors, national surveys of youth smoking data and what we know about local communities to identify areas where young people are likely to have a higher risk of being a smoker.”

Public Health England’s ambition is to reduce smoking rates among young people to secure a tobacco-free generation. Nationally an estimated 12.71% of 15 year olds are regular or occasional smokers, but the data shows considerable variation between areas.

Areas with high estimates included Hartlepool (15.87%), Gateshead (15.92%), Plymouth (15.93%), South Tyneside (16.27%) and Kingston upon Hull (16.68%)

Areas with the lower estimates were concentrated in Greater London, including Harrow (5.15%), Newham (5.37%), Redbridge (5.68%) and Brent (5.70%).

These figures closely mirror adult smoking rates which are falling less rapidly in some areas, with smoking rates considerably higher in deprived communities. Smoking is the single biggest cause of the difference in life expectancy between the richest and poorest in England.

Nearly eight million people still smoke, with 90% having started before the age of 19.

Professor Kevin Fenton, National Director Health and Wellbeing, Public Health England:
“Nationally youth smoking rates are falling and are at their lowest ever levels. But we know smoking rates vary considerably across the country and smoking causes greater harm to more deprived communities. The estimates shine a light on communities where young people have a higher risk of smoking and will help local agencies to focus efforts where they are most needed.

“We want to secure a tobacco-free generation and these figures will help us towards this goal. Our most disadvantaged communities have the most to gain.”

Professor Graham Moon, University of Southampton, said: “By having a snapshot of their communities, local organisations are best placed to take action so future generations no longer suffer the devastating and preventable harm caused by tobacco. If we can stop young people starting smoking before the age of 19 then they stand the best chance of enjoying the health, social and financial benefits of a smokefree life.”

Professor Gillian Leng, NICE Deputy Chief Executive, said: “Nine out of ten smokers started by the age of 18. We must do more to prevent our children and young people from using tobacco products, or we will see tens of thousands of them suffer and die prematurely as adults. Fully implementing proven tobacco control interventions would help keep our children and young people from falling victim to tobacco.”

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