Smoking in Children


  • Approximately 8.2% of 15 year olds in Wakefield are smokers (2014/15).
  • 5.5% of 15 year olds are regular smokers (2014/15).
  • 18.5% of 15 year olds use e-cigarettes (2014/15).

The Population

Smoking has been identified as the main reason why poorer people die younger. Children who smoke become addicted to nicotine very quickly, and they are more likely to continue to smoke; around two-thirds of people who smoke took up the habit before the age of 18. Children and young people who smoke are more susceptible to coughs, wheezing, and asthma-related symptoms, they are also at greater risk of developing lung cancer or heart disease later in life.

E-cigarettes are often perceived by children and young people as a ‘safe’ alternative to smoking, however still contain large amounts of nicotine, a highly addictive substance. Nicotine affects the circulatory and nervous system, and has the potential to have highly adverse effects on the developing brain.

The Challenges

According to the ‘What About YOUth survey’ carried out in 2015, 8.2% of 15 year olds in Wakefield were smokers, and 5.5% classed as ‘regular smokers’. This was the same as the national average.

Data from the Children’s Health and Wellbeing Questionnaire (HRBQ) 2017, however, indicates that there may have been a slight reduction in this number. Of all Year 9 pupils (13-14 years) responding to the relevant question, 3.0% answered that they smoke cigarettes occasionally or regularly, and 5.5% that they smoke e-cigarettes regularly. 27.1% of this age group responded that they ‘have at least tried’ e-cigarettes.

This pattern is slightly different among Year 12 and 13 students in Wakefield (aged 16-18), with 13.6% responding that they smoke cigarettes occasionally or regularly, and 7.6% smoking e-cigarettes occasionally or regularly. 40.5% reported that they ‘have at least tried’ e-cigarettes.


The Inequality

Data from the Children’s HRBQ indicates that 7% of young carers aged 13-14 smoke ‘occasionally or regularly’, compared to 3% of all 13-14 year olds. Children in care and those from a more deprived area were also more likely to smoke. Double the number of young carers aged 13-14 smoke e-cigarettes compared to all 13-14 year olds surveyed.

Among 16-18 year olds, the percentage of pupils who are in care who reported that they smoke ‘occasionally or regularly’ was 27%, more than double the prevalence for all 16-18 year olds surveyed.

Service Provision

The Wakefield branch of the NHS Stop Smoking Service is a dedicated team of ‘Specialist Advisers’ who will provide free intensive support for smokers wanting to quit. They are able to provide support to those aged under 18 who want to quit smoking.