Habits - bad or good - formed when young sometimes prove hard to shift in adult life, especially if they involve tobacco.
NHS statistics for the period 2006-2008 for children between 11 and 15 who admitted to being smokers show a marked regional pattern. These figures were collected during the time that the universal ban on lighting up in public places came into effect in 2007, so they measure the end of the period when smoking was not seen as such an antisocial activity as it is today.
Between one in three and one in four 11 to 15-year-olds in this survey admitted to having smoked, with between one in four and one in six of this group admitting to being regular smokers, despite all being below the legal age for buying tobacco products, including cigarettes. So presumably either someone was buying them on their behalf, they were being sold products illegally or they were misrepresenting their age.
Smoking was most common in the North East and Yorkshire and Humber, and least common in London, where only 31 per cent of 11 to 15-year-olds had ever smoked. And only 5 per cent classified themselves as regular smokers, compared with 42 per cent of 11 to 15-year-olds who had smoked in the North East - one in four of whom was a regular smoker. Across all regions, young smokers are more likely to be girls rather than boys.
These figures for 11 to 15-year-olds mirror those for adults, as more adults smoke in the North East than in London. With the banning of smoking adverts, overt displays of smoking products and the promotion of smoking at sporting events, there is likely to be a strong inter-generational trend in the acquisition of the smoking habit.
Gone are the days of the quick fag behind the bike sheds, along with the clip round the ear that used to accompany detection.
John Howson is director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education
PERCENTAGE WHO HAVE EVER SMOKED
North East 42
North West 38
Yorkshire and Humber 40
West Midlands 34
East Midlands 35
East of England 33
South East 35
South West 34
PERCENTAGE OF 11 TO 15-YEAR-OLDS WHO ARE REGULAR SMOKERS (2006-08)
South West 7
South East 7
East of England 7
East Midlands 8
West Midlands 7
Yorkshire and Humber 9
North West 8
North East 10.