Family members who smoke are more likely to influence young people to take up the habit than pressure from peers, new research has revealed.
Questioned about their attitudes towards smoking, 99% of regular young smokers said they lived with at least one smoker, although less than 15% said they had ever felt under pressure to take up cigarettes.
The 11-year study by Liverpool John Moores University for the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation found that children aged 12 to 16 were 44% more likely to start smoking if a member of their household did.
It also found that young smokers were much more likely to live in poorer areas. Fourteen to 16-year-olds living in an area of high deprivation were 95% more likely to try smoking.
The Foundation said that the results of the research will enable health authorities to better target their anti-smoking campaigns.
Chief executive Dr Rosemary Gillespie said: "The process of becoming a smoker begins very early in childhood and is primarily influenced by exposure to smoke in the home.
"The findings provide us with a vital insight into how young people become smokers and will enable us to continue to develop and implement effective smoking prevention and health education programmes."
"I grew up in a family who smoke 60 sticks a day. But I never dreamt of trying. Why? Because we are poor and I know that if I start I won't be able to maintain it. I think it's mostly influence by choice." - Arline, Southampton
"Definitely, yes. All efforts should be made to break the link between smoking and the family if the stop smoking message is to be effective to change habits." - V Henry