'Smokefree generation' lobbies parents

In collaboration with the Press Association

A heightened awareness of the dangers of smoking among the younger generation has been highlighted by the findings of a new Department of Health survey.

It uncovers a new "smokefree generation" of children who will go to considerable lengths to get their parents to give up tobacco.

Researchers found that youngsters would be prepared to go without Christmas presents; give up their pocket money; and even commit to complete their homework every night in order to persuade their parents to kick the habit.

The findings, which suggest public education programmes are having an impact on the attitudes of younger members of society, were published to promote the second wave of a campaign aimed at getting loved ones to quit smoking.

Birds Of A Feather TV star Linda Robson, an NHS ambassador, said: "Having seen my own Dad die from lung cancer aged 57, there's no way I wanted to put my own children through that experience.

"The thought of my kids visiting me in hospital was a strong motivation for me and since I decided to quit, my three kids have been a huge support."

Department of Health researchers polled 1,000 children in England aged between seven and 13.

The study found the majority (54 per cent) of children with a parent who smoked said their one wish for Christmas was that their Mum or Dad would give up the habit - and almost all (98 per cent) wished they would quit.

Nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of children with a smoking parent worried about the risk of them dying and a further 58 per cent worried about the risk of heart disease. And some 94 per cent of children surveyed described smoking as either stupid (52 per cent) or dangerous (42 per cent).

Furthermore, to encourage their parents to quit, more than one third (37 per cent) said they would go without any Christmas presents; 59 per cent would give up pocket money and 78 per cent would commit to doing their homework every night. Nearly as many (76 per cent) said they would be prepared to go to bed when told.

Jean King, Cancer Research UK's director of tobacco control, said: "Giving up smoking is the best thing people can do to improve their health. Most smokers say that they'd like to give up if they could, but it's a tough addiction to break. Finding motivation to quit is a key, and it's reassuring to see that children are also urging their parents and family to stop.

"Free services and treatments - such as the NHS Quit Services - are available to help and these have been shown to improve the chances of giving up for good. Smokers are four times more likely to quit successfully if they get professional support than if they try to go 'cold-turkey'. With Christmas fast approaching, quitting is the best present smokers could give themselves and their families."

Copyright Press Association 2011