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Thursday, June 11, 1998 Published at 19:42 GMT 20:42 UK


Anti-smoking campaign targets children

Smokers are getting younger and younger, says the campaign

Half the teenagers who smoke today will die if they do not give up, according to a new campaign aimed at dissuading the growing number of youngsters from taking up the habit.

The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation is launching the Kids Against Tobacco Smoke (KATS) campaign at an international conference ion London.

[ image: Young smokers may have serious health problems in later life]
Young smokers may have serious health problems in later life
KATS will concentrate on preventing children from getting hooked on the habit, rather than just persuading those who already smoke to give up. Statistics show that of the 300 people who take up smoking every day, nearly every one of them is a child under the age of 18.

The chairman of the Foundation, Professor Ray Donnelly, says this group of young smokers must be the target of concern. "These days it is unusual for an adult to take up smoking. Most new smokers are children and young people, and we have to find new ways of preventing them from starting as well as helping them to stop."

Neglected age

The campaign will warn children between the ages of four and 12 of the health risks associated with smoking. It is an age group which the campaign's organisers say has been neglected in favour of teenagers.

Mike Birkett, spokesman for the Foundation, explains the change in tactics. He says: "The numbers of young people smoking is definitely on the rise, which indicates that the measures currently in place are not working. Our research shows that many children have already been influenced by the age of 12."

[ image: Who or what makes young people turn to cigarettes?]
Who or what makes young people turn to cigarettes?
The campaign says smoking at such a young age undoubtedly increases the risk of cigarette-related diseases later on in life, such as cancer and heart disease. Many young smokers may also suffer from respiratory diseases such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema.

The Foundation is launching an appeal for 10m at the conference, which has been called under the UK Presidency of the European Union.

Among its aims are the creation of a formal unit to conduct research into young people and smoking, and the establishment of a multi-media facility to set up international links with schools in the developing world where children are being targeted by the tobacco companies.

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