Raising the legal age to buy cigarettes has helped reduce the number of teenagers smoking, according to new research.
Some 24% of teenagers aged between 16 and 17 smoked ahead of the change in law in October 2007, a survey by University College of London found.
A new survey has found 17% of teenagers now smoke following the raising of the legal age from 16 to 18. However smoking rates among adults has remained the same.
The findings appear to prove that tobacco policy can make a difference to teenagers making the decision to light up, the researchers said.
The majority (80%) of smokers begin before they turn 19 and half of all long-term smokers will die of cancer and other smoking related diseases, research shows.
Writing in the journal Addiction the researchers said it was vital youngsters were deterred from starting to smoke so as to cut the number of smoking-related deaths.
Jenny Fidler, who led the study and is based at Cancer Research UK’s health behaviour research centre at University College London, said: “The new law looks to have helped reduce smoking prevalence among younger age groups.
“This is good news for the future health of this generation of young people and shows that tobacco policies can make a real difference.”
Researchers surveyed more than 1,000 teenagers before and after the law change.