More than 200 children start smoking every day in England

More than 200 adults die from a smoking-related illness every day in England. [Photo: Getty]

More than 200 children in England start smoking every day, research suggests.

The dangers of lighting up are well known, with cigarettes linked to everything from lung cancer and heart disease to asthma and infertility.

Despite the risks, research by Cancer Research UK suggests 280 youngsters take up the habit every day.

Experts worry these stark figures reveal just how far we have to go to make England smoke-free by 2030.

READ MORE: Shocking video reveals the 'hidden' cancer-causing chemicals in cigarettes

“Our analysis shows 280 children, enough to fill 20 school minibuses, start smoking in England every day,” Alison Cox, director of cancer prevention at Cancer Research UK, said.

“Smoking is the biggest preventable cause of cancer and kills tens of thousands of people every year.

“To stop children taking up smoking, and to prevent smoking related illnesses and deaths, more needs to be done to help their parents quit, as children growing up in smoking households are nearly twice as likely to become smokers themselves.

“The government must act now if England is to become smoke-free by 2030.”

Since it announced plans to make the country smoke-free by 2030 in July last year, more than 50,000 children are said to have taken up the habit - enough to fill a football stadium.

Two thirds of young people who experiment with cigarettes become daily smokers, government data shows.

Among adults, smoking is on the decline, with around 5% fewer lighting up in 2018 than 2011, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Nonetheless, 14.7% of adults in the UK still smoked two years ago, making up around 7.2m people.

On a typical day, more than 200 adults die from a smoking-related disease, NHS Digital data shows.

READ MORE: ‘It’s never too late’ to quit smoking with some 'lung cells showing no damage a few years after ditching the habit’

One who knows the risks all too well is ex-smoker Sue Mountain.

“I started smoking when I was 11 to fit in,” she said.

“As a kid you don’t realise how addictive it is.”

Ms Mountain was forced to have laser treatment in 2012 after developing laryngeal cancer.

The disease returned in 2017, requiring she undergo radiotherapy every day for four weeks to beat it.

“I am one of the lucky ones, I’ve survived,” Ms Mountain said.

The ex-smoker’s health is not the only thing cigarettes cost her.

“When I look back at what I have spent on cigarettes, it must have been £50,000 [$64,641] at least,” she said.

“It could have bought me half a house, instead of cancer.”

To help stop people taking up the habit - and assist smokers in quitting - Cancer Research UK, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), and the regional tobacco control programme Fresh have launched the Smokefree 2030 campaign.

“England will only be smoke-free by 2030 if we’re much tougher in how we regulate tobacco, including making the industry pay for the damage it does,” Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said.

“There’s no time to lose, the clock is ticking, with less than 10 years to go.”

The campaigners want tobacco companies to finance a Smokefree 2030 Fund.

Ex-smoker Sue Mountain developed laryngeal cancer in 2012 and again in 2017. [Photo: ASH]

How to quit smoking

Weaning yourself off cigarettes is not easy, but small lifestyle changes can reduce temptation.

The NHS urges smokers to plan how to go about quitting, including setting a “date”.

“Whenever you find yourself in difficulty, say to yourself, ‘I won't even have a single drag’, and stick with this until the cravings pass,” it recommends.

If you find yourself in a tempting situation, like a party, plan an “escape route in advance” and stick with the non-smokers.

For those who always smoke at certain times - for example after dinner - find a distraction, like doing the washing up.

Cravings reportedly last up to five minutes. You could fill this time with going for a quick jog or stroll.

If family or friends want to quit as well, try and combat the cravings together.

READ MORE: US tells smokers to 'stop vaping': what are the health implications of e-cigarettes?

Stop smoking services can help, with research showing smokers are up to four times more likely to quit with expert help and advice.

Find support local to you on the NHS’ location browser.

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) - like patches, lozenges or gum - could also double a hopeful-quitter’s chance of success.

NRT provides smokers with a low level of nicotine, without all the other chemicals.

It may help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms, like irritability.

Some also turn to e-cigarettes, which deliver nicotine in a vapour, avoiding “most of the harmful effects of smoking”.

Research suggests vaping may carry its own risks, but is still universally considered far better than smoking.

The NHS has more information on stop smoking treatments.

Try and also keep your hands and mouth “busy” by holding, or drinking through, a straw.

Throughout it all, stay positive and remind yourself why you are quitting.

Ex-smoker Chris, 28, told the NHS: “I used to take a picture of my baby daughter with me when I went out.

“If I was tempted, I'd look at that.”