Smoking should be banned for everyone under the age of 21 according to a new study.
A study published in The Lancet & The Lancet Public Health revealed the number of smokers worldwide had increased to 1.1 billion in 2019 and crucially stated that three-quarters of smokers have had their first cigarette by the age of 21.
It also claimed that the average age that smoking becomes regular is 19 years old and that new smokers are often addicted by the time that they're 25.
Smoking with tobacco has caused 7.7 million deaths and accounts for one in five male deaths globally.
As a result of the study, experts are now calling for drastic changes around the laws of smoking.
The Sun reports that Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health, urged the UK government to seriously take notice of the study.
She said: "This powerful global study shows clearly that smoking is an addiction of youth.
"Raising the age of sale to 21 could protect more than a hundred thousand people from a lethal addiction which many will struggle their whole lives to quit. And that's just in the first year.
"If we're to achieve the Government's vision of smoke-free country by 2030 this is the kind of bold action that's needed."
Arnott was commenting after modelling by academics at University College London (UCL) showed that raising the age of sale of tobacco products to 21 would lead to a reduction of 30 per cent of smokers in just one year.
Her comments were echoed by Professor Robert West, Emeritus Professor at UCL.
He said: "Tobacco dependence is an addictive disorder that typically starts before the brain has matured, with the vast majority starting before the age of 21, and substantial uptake between 18 and 20."
West went on to claim that any such move would gain the backing of much of the public - despite smoking's popularity - stating that 63 percent of English adults supported the change under a survey conducted.
He said: "It's a popular policy with voters for all the major political parties, with two-thirds of Conservative voters surveyed saying they support raising the age of sale to 21 (66 per cent support,12 per cent oppose)."
The study by The Lancet covered 3,625 surveys based on smoking habits in 204 countries and focused on men and women 15 years old and over.
Its lead author was Marissa Reitsma, and she pinpointed the ages between 15 and 24 as critical to changing smoking habits.
She commented: "Behavioural and biological studies suggest that young people are particularly vulnerable to addiction, and with high rates of cessation remaining elusive worldwide, the tobacco epidemic will continue for years to come unless countries can dramatically reduce the number of new smokers starting each year.
"With nine out of ten smokers starting before the age of 25, ensuring that young people remain smoke-free through their mid-twenties will result in radical reductions in smoking rates for the next generation".
Featured Image Credit: PA
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