Education And Debate

Counting the costs of children's smoking

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.311.7013.1152 (Published 28 October 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:1152
  1. Jonathan Foulds, lecturer in tobacco addictiona,
  2. Christine Godfrey, reader in health economicsb
  1. aDepartment of Addictive Behaviour, St George's Hospital Medical School, London SW17 0RE
  2. bCentre for Health Economics and Department of Health Sciences and Clinical Evaluation, York, YO1 5DD
  1. Correspondence to: Mr Foulds.

    The recent publication of the 1994 OPCS survey of smoking among secondary school children confirmed that the Health of the Nation target for children's smoking (a reduction in regular smoking from 8% in 1988 to less than 6% in 1994) has not been achieved. In 1994, 12% of English schoolchildren aged 11-15 were regular smokers (as were 12% in Scotland, 9% in Wales, and 12.5% in Northern Ireland). In 1994 the government spent around pounds sterling10 million on initiatives to prevent smoking, but received around pounds sterling8643 million in tax receipts from tobacco sales, about pounds sterling108 million of which was tax receipts from the illegal sale of cigarettes to children under 16 years old. The tobacco industry spent an estimated pounds sterling100 million on promotional activities. Improving current trends in children's smoking by the year 2000 will require decisive action by the government. The government should legislate to ban tobacco advertising and should use the pounds sterling108 million taken each year in taxes from smoking children to fund smoking cessation and prevention initiatives.

    One of the main Health of the Nation targets for smoking is a reduction in the prevalence of regular smoking (defined as smoking one or more cigarettes per week) among 11-15 year olds in England from 8% in 1988 to less than 6% in 1994.1 The detailed results of the 1994 Office of Population Censuses and Surveys' survey of children's smoking, published recently, confirmed that the proportion of English secondary school children smoking regularly has actually increased to 12%.2

    Figure 1 shows the smoking rates for girls and boys in England from 1982 to 1994. This shows that children's smoking has remained fairly stable over the past 15 years, with 1988 having the lowest rates and 1994 one of the highest (the highest rates …

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