SMOKING should be banned to all under 21s to save millions of lives, experts have warned.
Globally the number of smokers continues to rise and a new study has found that three quarters of the world’s smokers has their first cigarette by the age of 21.
The experts also revealed that the average age of regular smoking is 19 and that new smokers become addicted by the time they are 25-years-old.
A study published in The Lancet & The Lancet Public Health stated that preventing adolescents from starting smoking is “crucial for changing the course of the epidemic for the next generation”.
It found that the number of smokers worldwide has increased to 1.1 billion in 2019.
Smoking with tobacco caused 7.7 million deaths – including one in five deaths in males worldwide.
Experts behind the study are now now calling for all countries to act to protect young people and charity ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) has said raising the age of smoking to 21 could protect millions of people from a “lethal addiction”.
Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH said the government must consult on the measure.
She said: “This powerful global study shows clearly that smoking is an addiction of youth.
“Raising the age of sale to 21 could protect more than a hundred thousand people from a lethal addiction which many will struggle their whole lives to quit. And that’s just in the first year.
“If we’re to achieve the Government’s vision of smokefree country by 2030 this is the kind of bold action that’s needed.”
The 5 tips you need to know to help you quit smoking
Think of the money: The coronavirus pandemic has created a financial burden for many people and smoking is an expensive habit to have.
Calculate how much you spend on smoking each day, then work out what you spend a month and then what you spend on smoking in a year.
Get help: The key thing to remember here is that you don’t have to go it alone when it comes to stubbing out cigarettes.
You can always ask your GP or pharmacist to help and they will be able to advise you on the best course of action to take.
Consider a replacement:Guidance from the NHS states: “Cigarettes are addictive, and self-control alone might not be enough for you to stop entirely.
“Give yourself a better chance of success by using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). This is available on prescription from your GP, from your local stop smoking service or from a pharmacist.
“You could also consider trying e-cigarettes. While they’re not risk-free, they are much safer than cigarettes and can help people stop smoking.”
Join a support group: The NHS says that speaking to others in the same position as you can help you quit.
The NHS says your’re four times more likely to quit smoking if you have the help of your local support group.
Prepare mentally: Last year over 300,000 Brits quit smoking amid coronavirus fears.
If you want to quit you’re not alone.
Smoking is a powerful addictive drug which is why it’s hard to give it up.
Ms Arnott’s comments come after modelling by academics at University College London (UCL) revealed that raising the age of sale of tobacco products to 21 would lead to a reduction of 30 per cent of smokers in just one year.
It found that after one year 18,000 new potential smokers would have been deterred.
Professor Robert West, Emeritus Professor at UCL, said that reducing the age limit to 21 would have a greater impact than any other political measure still under consideration.
He added: “Tobacco dependence is an addictive disorder that typically starts before the brain has matured, with the vast majority starting before the age of 21, and substantial uptake between 18 and 20.”
Prof West highlighted that the public would back such measures and referenced a survey that found that increasing the age of sale from 18 to 21 has majority support from English adults with 63 per cent of people supporting the change.
He added: “It’s a popular policy with voters for all the major political parties, with two thirds of Conservative voters surveyed saying they support raising the age of sale to 21 (66 per cent support,12 per cent oppose).”
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The Lancet study includes looked at 3,625 surveys on smoking habits from over 204 countries in men and women aged 15 and over.
Marissa Reitsma, lead author of the studies on smoking said that the ages of 15-24 are critical when it comes to changing smoking habits.
She added: “Behavioural and biological studies suggest that young people are particularly vulnerable to addiction, and with high rates of cessation remaining elusive worldwide, the tobacco epidemic will continue for years to come unless countries can dramatically reduce the number of new smokers starting each year.
“With nine out of ten smokers starting before the age of 25, ensuring that young people remain smoke-free through their mid-twenties will result in radical reductions in smoking rates for the next generation”.