Smoking in Merthyr Tydfil, in South Wales, Great Britain starts as early as nine years old, reports a National Health Service survey.
The town with a population of 55,000, has one of the lowest life-expectancy rates in the UK and one of the highest rates of people claiming health-related state benefits. Few job opportunities and poor wages have kept the people dependent on state hand-outs. A depressed life style is probably what led some to think that giving their children as young as three cigarettes is funny. "Unfortunately, it is realistic. I had a patient who started between two and three. His parents gave him cigarettes because they thought it was funny," researcher Tracey Bowen said.
The issue came to light when health professionals started to note that the town had a high number of tobacco-related illness.
Smoking expert and Birmingham University professor, Paul Aveyard sounds the warning. "It is worrying, as you become more addicted to smoking the earlier you start. Starting younger is also associated with a higher risk of smoking-related diseases."