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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 October, 2003, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
Children given nicotine patches
One percent of all 11 year olds smokes regularly
Children as young as 12 are being given nicotine patches to help them kick the habit in Gloucestershire.

Anti-smoking experts say under-age smoking is a growing problem in the county, particularly among girls, and that patches can help children hooked on nictotine.

But they can only be only prescribed by a GP, in conjunction with support provided by the Gloucestershire Smoking Advice Service, which is part of the NHS.

Judith Whittle, from the Advice Service, told BBC News Online that children who smoked more than five cigarettes a day would be the most likely candidates for Nicotine Replacement Therapy.

Regular smokers

"NRT - like patches or gum - may be given as part of a supervised programme: but always on the advice of a GP.

"And children are only given it in conjunction with support.

"We encourage GPs to only give out a week's worth at a time, and then for the child to arrange an appointment with us," she said.

She says one in nine 14 to 15 year olds regularly smoke in Gloucestershire, and that nationally, 450 children start smoking a day.

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