Concern over teenagers’ smoking habits in Norfolk

Man smoking an electronic cigarette. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo

Man smoking an electronic cigarette. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo - Credit: PA

Norfolk has one of the highest populations of teenage smokers in England, new figures reveal.

More than one in 10 15-year-olds in the county is increasing their chances of developing serious illnesses and conditions later in life by lighting up, according to statistics from the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

And the figures reveal nearly one in five 15-year olds has tried smoking electronic cigarettes, which contain nicotine but are believed to carry fewer health risks.

Health experts in Norfolk said the issue was a concern and warned smoking remained the biggest preventable cause of ill health.

Ben Jest, business and marketing officer at Smokefree Norfolk, said teenagers were not worried about the health risks of smoking because the consequences seemed so far away.

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Smokefree Norfolk, which is part of Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust, offers free help and advice to smokers trying to quit their habit.

'Teenagers are the hardest group to reach out to,' Mr Jest said.

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'When you're young you have that feeling of invincibility, and when we talk about the illnesses you can get later in life, that seems so far away to them.'

He said Smokefree Norfolk tried to inform teenagers of how smoking can impact on their sexual health, hygiene and skin to help prevent them from starting the habit.

According to the figures, 11.4pc of 15-year-olds in Norfolk smoke regularly or occasionally.

That is more than 3pc higher than the national average (8.2pc), and places the county 13th of the 151 local authorities in England.

The percentage of girls smoking is twice as high as the number of boys, with 29.9pc of the teenagers admitting they had smoked at some point during their life.

A total of 3.2pc of 15-year-olds in Norfolk currently smoke electronic cigarettes, the highest number in any of the east of England counties.

Electronic cigarettes are acknowledged as less harmful and some smokers see them as a stepping stone to quitting completely. But Mr Jest said people who smoked electronic cigarettes were not addressing their nicotine addiction.

He added: 'It's a really grey area and the view from Public Health England is don't start smoking either type of cigarette.'

In Suffolk 8.2pc of 15-year-olds smoke, while 2.5pc use electronic cigarettes.

Three of four of those surveyed had never smoked in their lives.

The number of Cambridgeshire 15-year-olds who currently smoke is 8.2pc, while 2.1pc use electronic cigarettes.

The national average for English 15-year-olds smoking electronic cigarettes stands at 2.7pc, the figures show.

Anyone wishing to receive help from Smokefree Norfolk can call 0800 0854 113. Callers can be given appointments with advisers.

Have you successfully managed to stop smoking? Email our health correspondent at

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