An alarming rise in the number of British child smokers, rising by 50,000 in the past year
An alarming rise in the number of British child smokers,increasing by 50,000 in the past year

The number of child smokers in the UK has risen sharply by 50,000 in the past year, the equivalent of 567 youngsters taking up the habit every day.

"With such a large number of youngsters starting to smoke every year, urgent action is needed to tackle the devastation caused by tobacco," said Sarah Woolnough, executive director of policy and information at Cancer Research UK.

"Replacing slick, brightly-coloured packs that appeal to children with standard packs displaying prominent health warnings is a vital part of efforts to protect health.

"Reducing the appeal of cigarettes with plain, standardised packs will give millions of children one less reason to start smoking."

Around 27 percent of all under 16s have tried smoking at least once - equivalent to one million children. Eight out of ten adult smokers start before they turn 19.

Half of all long-term smokers will die from tobacco-related illness. Around 100,000 people are killed by smoking in the UK each year, according to Cancer Research UK.

"These figures underline the importance of sustained action to discourage young people from starting. Smoking kills and is responsible for at least 14 different types of cancer," stated Woolnough.

Research has shown that children find the plain packs less appealing and are less likely to be misled by the sophisticated marketing techniques designed to make smoking attractive to youngsters.

Because of this, the cancer charity is urging the government to commit to plain, standardised packaging of tobacco.

A public consultation on the future of tobacco packaging was carried out last year, but so far there has been no decision from the government on what measures - if any - will be put into place.

In December 2012, Australia became the first country in the world to put all tobacco products in standardised packs. Cigarette packets and other products are all sold in a standardised colour, with only the brand name and graphic warnings visible.

Indonesia has one of the world's highest numbers of child smokers, with a seven-fold increase in less than a decade, according to Channel 4 report.

Law enforcements are weak in Indonesia. There is no minimum age for buying cigarettes in the South-East Asian country, with little education about the dangers of smoking.

"Child labour in the tobacco industry is dangerous work," Priyono Adi Nugroho of Indonesia's Child Protection Institute told the Jakarta Globe.

"Children are supposed to go to school, study and play. Instead, they work in an industry which produces cigarettes. Then they start smoking themselves and see it as nothing out of the ordinary."

Cigarette packets
Brightly coloured cigarette packets are cited as a primary attraction for young smokers.