Study investigates teen smoking
Teenagers tend to start smoking out of curiosity rather than a desire to look 'cool' and are more likely to pick up the habit from their parents than their friends, researchers have found.
A study by the Roy Castle Foundation, obtained by the Guardian, found that 82 per cent of smokers start before the age of 18.
Some begin smoking as a way of rebelling against adult authority, others because they believe it will help them to make friends, while many claim to be stressed or merely bored.
Dr Susan Woods, one of the authors of the Liverpool Longitudinal Smoking Study, commented: "Some of the young people we've spoken to said they started because they were having problems at home; they smoke to relieve stress or they have anger management problems."
Dr Woods revealed that many primary school children are influenced by their parents smoking and that this is the biggest predictor of teen smoking.
"Primary school children associate parental smoking as a need to cope with everyday life," she told the Guardian.
The study also suggests many school children take up smoking despite being aware of the health risks.
Dr Woods noted: "By the end of primary school, children are fantastically aware of the risks of smoking and what it does to their health. They talk about cancer and heart disease quite confidently.
"It doesn't stop them starting it though. So it's possible they see it as classic risk-taking behaviour."
The Roy Castle Foundation's researchers have also found that, despite the recent increase in the legal age for buying tobacco products - now 18 - children under the age of 16 are still managing to buy cigarettes, either from adults, family members, older friends, or by obtaining contraband from street sellers.