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Page last updated at 14:43 GMT, Tuesday, 6 January 2009
Scotland's young smokers targeted

By Tamasin Ford
Newsbeat reporter

Smoking among teenagers, and especially girls, in Scotland is on the rise. Newsbeat investigates what the Scottish government is doing to reduce the number of underage smokers, including raising the age limit and tackling cigarette advertising.

A person lighting a cigarette
Smoke from cigarettes contains over 4,000 different chemicals

The number of young people smoking in Scotland is at a 10-year high.

According to the latest stats, nearly a third of 16 to 24-year-olds smoke.

The Scottish Government says it's stepping up its drive against smoking.

It's introducing new laws this year to ban tobacco displays in shops and it has already raised the legal smoking age to 18.

Nineteen-year-old Jamie, from Glasgow, has been smoking for five years.

"Everybody knows it's bad for you. They should just let people smoke if they want to smoke," he says. "It's up to us. We know it's bad for us so it's up to us if we want to smoke."

Scotland banned smoking in public places more than a year before the rest of the UK.

It's also leading the way in terms of plans to scrap packets of ten and banning tobacco displays in shops.

Cancer warning

Now the Scottish government says it wants to get tough on young smokers.
I think a lot of it's tied up with image and myths, like, 'If you smoke you're more likely to stay thin'
Scottish Public Health Minister Shona Robison

Shona Robison, the Scottish Public Health Minister, says: "Young people maybe think they're invincible. What they start doing at 15 or 16 they don't realise it will have serious repercussions for them 20-30 years later."

She says the government is disappointed at the rising number of teenagers who are smoking.

"We know that someone who starts smoking at 15 is three times as likely to die of cancer as a result than someone who starts in their mid-20s," she explains. "So it's very important we get that message across."

The Scottish government's new plans to tackle smoking have been welcomed by campaigners.

Philippa Bonella, from the anti-smoking charity ASH Scotland, says: "We know that the tobacco industry needs to recruit young smokers to replace the ones who are quitting later on."

This year the government is focusing on new legislation which will attempt to ban displays of tobacco in shops.

'Girls more likely'

Another worrying statistic is that teenage girls between the ages of 16 and 19 in Scotland are now more likely to smoke than boys.

Twenty-one-year-old Tara, from Glasgow, started smoking when she was 16.

"I think it's because girls in the past were taught to be more reserved and now they don't have to be," she says.

Public Health Minister Shona Robison says she thinks it's also got a lot to do with role models.

"I think a lot of it's tied up with image and myths, like, 'If you smoke you're more likely to stay thin'," she explains.

Not everyone is convinced that these new plans will stop young people smoking, though.

Eighteen-year-old Finnigan, from Newton Mears, reckons: "It's like alcohol, man, it's never going to change. The age has been raised to 18 but as long as you've got people to buy the fags for you it's always going to be a wee buzz to get it."

He thinks changing the age limit has made more young people want to smoke. "I think because the fact they put it to 18 it made it more cool...," he says. "It's a coolness thing."

Finnigan's friend Sinky says he can't see a way to stop young people taking up the habit.

"The thing about young people smoking is that they weren't affected by the smoking ban. They can't get into pubs or clubs so it stopped older people but not younger people. They're always going to smoke if they want to."

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