New figures released today by public health charity ASH Wales show that each day in Wales an estimated 38 teenagers who have never smoked before try smoking cigarettes, introducing them to a truly deadly product. The figures have been released ahead of a major conference taking place in Cardiff later this week.

ASH Wales and Alcohol Concern Cymru have teamed up to host the Tobacco and Alcohol: Learning from each other conference. Delegates from all over the UK and further afield will be discussing tobacco and alcohol policy and prevention at the Parc Thistle Hotel, Cardiff on 12th and 13th October 2011.

Analysis of data from the 2009/10 Welsh Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) Survey reveals that on an annual basis, around 14,000 young people aged 11-15 who have never smoked before try smoking. That’s 269 a week.

Worryingly, the data show that between age 10 and 11, an estimated 1,000 young people tried smoking for the first time but between 12 and 13 this number more than doubled and between 13 and 14 the number trebled.

Carole Morgan-Jones, Acting Chief Executive, ASH Wales, commented:

“These figures are worrying. We know that young people progress quite quickly from experimenting with tobacco to regular use and as they get older they develop nicotine addiction. This is backed up by research we carried out in the summer of 2011. We surveyed over 1000 young people in Wales and found that a fifth of current smokers began smoking at 13 years of age. The majority (60%) of these young smokers reported that they would like help to quit and 76% thought that they were addicted.

"This is particularly concerning because early uptake of smoking is associated with heavier smoking patterns and a higher probability of becoming ill from a smoking related disease in later life. It illustrates why prevention programmes aimed at young people are so important. Breaking the cycle of childhood addiction to tobacco products is necessary to reduce the ongoing health, economic and social problems caused by tobacco in Wales.”