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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 March, 2004, 14:00 GMT
Women's bad habits getting worse
Woman drinking
Drinking among young women is on the increase
Young women are drinking and smoking more than ever, according to new figures released by the government.

The General Household Survey, put together from interviews with more than 20,000 people, has raised concerns about women's habits.

Weekly drinking levels amongst young women have increased significantly and smoking has become much more popular with teenage girls.

Campaigners blame increased income and marketing aimed at young women.

Lee Lixcnberg, spokesman for Alcohol Concern, said: "I think a major factor is that more and more women in that age group have established careers.

Target young women

"That means they have more of a disposable income now which gives them more freedom to drink.

"Another contributing factor is the fact that a lot of marketing tends to target young women in terms of the alcoholic products they sell these days."

The figures for 16-24 year-old women who drank more than the recommended weekly 14 units, virtually doubled from 17 to 33% between 1992 and 2002.

You often see pictures of models like Kate Moss with a cigarette in their mouth - I think images and role models like these have quite an influence on young girls
No Smoking Day director Ben Youdan

Smoking habits were also worse among 16 to 19-year-old girls.

The statistics revealed that more women smoke than men in this age group with 29% taking up the habit compared with 22% of teenage boys.

No Smoking Day director, Ben Youdan, puts the results down to a difference in role models.

He said: "I think with young teenage girls smoking is higher than boys because there is a strong link between smoking and glamour.

"You often see pictures of models like Kate Moss with a cigarette in their mouth.

Health inequalities

"I think images and role models like these have quite an influence on young girls.

"With boys it is different because they are more associated with sportsmen like footballers. Advertising is more based on athletes so they have different role models to girls."

Graph showing percentage of age groups smoking
Despite the findings, the survey did show an overall drop in smoking among men and women over the last 20 years.

Up to 38% of men and 33% of women were cigarette smokers in 1982.

But recent results show that the latest figure has fallen to 27% for men and 25% for women.

Welcoming the statistics, Melanie Johnson, Minister for Public Health said: "I am delighted by these results, these figures show that the government's programme to reduce the numbers of adults who smoke is working.

"They also show that smoking rates are falling in manual groups, which is crucial in tackling health inequalities."

The BBC's James Westhead
"Smoking... is rising among young women"

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