Childhood smoking statistics

Regular smokers

Children under 16 regularly smoke, UK

Tried smoking

Children under 16 have tried smoking, UK

Start under 16

Regular smokers began smoking before age 16, GB

Childhood smoking has health consequences both at the time and in older age. People who start to smoke at a younger age face additional risks of lung damage, bowel cancer, and cervical pre-cancerous lesions.

Smoking prevalence is higher in children whose parents, siblings and/or peers smoke.[1] These children may also be exposed to second-hand smoke.

Last reviewed:

3% of children aged 11-15 in England smoke regularly, at least one cigarette per week (2014).[1] On average, regular child smokers in England smoke 31 cigarettes per week.[1]

Almost a fifth (18%) of children aged 11-15 in England have tried smoking at least once.[1] Girls are around twice as likely as boys to smoke regularly.[1]

Prevalence of regular cigarette smoking in children is broadly similar in Wales (4% of children aged 11-16 in 2013-2014), Scotland (2% of children aged 13 and 9% of children aged 15 in 2013) and Northern Ireland (4% of children aged 11-16 in 2013).[2-4] UK countries cannot be directly compared due to differences in the data.

Cigarette smoking data is self reported so is likely to be an underestimate of the true prevalence in children.[5]

Last reviewed:

Regular cigarette smoking (at least one cigarette per week) prevalence among children aged 11-15 in England increases with age.[1]

Regular Cigarette Smoking Prevalence, Children Aged 11-15, by Age, England, 2014

Last reviewed:

Regular cigarette smoking (at least one cigarette per week) prevalence among children aged 11-15 in England has decreased since the 1990s.[1]

Regular Cigarette Smoking Prevalence, Children Aged 11-15, England, 1982-2014

Data for 1983, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1995, 1997 estimated by CRUK: actual England childhood regular smoking prevalence data not collected in these years.

Last reviewed:

Around 40% of current or previous regular smokers in Great Britain began smoking before age 16.[1] There were around 7 million smokers in 2012 in the UK who started smoking before the age of 18, it is estimated.[2]

An average of 136,500 children aged 11-15 started smoking between 2012 and 2014 in the UK, it is estimated.[2] That's more than 370 per day.[2] The number of new childhood smokers each year is falling, probably due in part to successful tobacco control policies designed to protect children.

Last reviewed:

Local Cancer Statistics

Local level cancer statistics; searchable by a local area or constituency in England.

Interested in an overview for Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland?

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See information and explanations on terminology used for statistics and reporting of cancer, and the methods used to calculate some of our statistics.


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