HULL has been highlighted as among the worst areas in the country for smoking rates among young people, according to new research.
Nationally an estimated 12.71% of 15-year-olds are regular or occasional smokers, but the data shows considerable variation between areas, according to the researchers.
In Hull 16.68% have been identified as having high rates of youth smoking.
The study was commissioned by Public Health England and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), and was created using modelling provided by the universities of Portsmouth and Southampton.
A University of Portsmouth spokeswoman said: “The figures are estimates of youth smoking rates for every local authority, ward and local NHS level - based on factors known to predict young people smoking.
“The data will help local organisations to respond to high levels of smoking within their areas.”
She said that nearly eight million people still smoke, with 90% having started before the age of 19.
Professor Kevin Fenton, national director health and wellbeing for Public Health England, said: “Nationally youth smoking rates are falling and are at their lowest ever levels.
“But we know smoking rates vary considerably across the country and smoking causes greater harm to more deprived communities.
“The estimates shine a light on communities where young people have a higher risk of smoking and will help local agencies to focus efforts where they are most needed.
“We want to secure a tobacco-free generation and these figures will help us towards this goal. Our most disadvantaged communities have the most to gain.”
Professor Gillian Leng, Nice deputy chief executive, said: “Nine out of 10 smokers started by the age of 18. We must do more to prevent our children and young people from using tobacco products, or we will see tens of thousands of them suffer and die prematurely as adults.
“Fully implementing proven tobacco control interventions would help keep our children and young people from falling victim to tobacco.”
Dr Liz Twigg, of the University of Portsmouth, said: “We know with some certainty which factors increase the likelihood of young people starting to smoke - ethnicity, social class and parental behaviour all play a role.
“For the first time we can combine these factors, national surveys of youth smoking data and what we know about local communities to identify areas where young people are likely to have a higher risk of being a smoker.”
Professor Graham Moon, of the University of Southampton, said: “By having a snapshot of their communities, local organisations are best placed to take action so future generations no longer suffer the devastating and preventable harm caused by tobacco.
“If we can stop young people starting smoking before the age of 19 then they stand the best chance of enjoying the health, social and financial benefits of a smoke-free life.”
The study comes as the Government plans to bring in plain packaging for cigarettes by the next election in order to help discourage young people from smoking.