A family affair for the one in three primary children who have smoked
A third of children at primary school start to smoke, and nearly 5 per cent are smoking regularly by the time they reach secondary school, it was claimed this week.
Dr Beulah Bewley, from the Department of Clinical Epidemiology at St Thomas's Hospital, London, reported to the Action on Smoking and Health conference findings from the first study of smoking among primary school children in this country.
The survey covered 7,115 children in their final years at Derbyshire schools. Most of the children smoked less than one cigarette a day, but 40 per cent started before the age of nine.
Respiratory trouble among these children was three times as likely as among non-smokers. Among children who had never smoked, for example, 5.7 per cent had morning coughs, compared with 18.5 per cent who smoked less than one cigarette a day and 31 per cent who smoked one or two.
The young smoker tended to come from a large family whose parents and brothers and sisters smoked.
Among the smoking group, 75 per cent had school friends who smoked, compared with 32 per cent among the non-smokers.
It was, however, no good parents taking a moralistic stance against smoking, Dr James Hemming, educational psychologist, told the conference. He described smoking as a form of dependence that had to be tackled separately with each individual.