One third of London’s under-16’s admit to smoking, according to a survey1 conducted by Cancer Research UK.

Statistics for the under-10’s are even more shocking. Two thirds of girls who were quizzed by the charity said they smoked, although the figure for boys in that age group remained around 30 per cent.

Despite their under-age smoking habits, more than half the children between 10 and 16 said they worried about their future health. And 80 per cent of teenage girls would change their habits to reduce the risk of illness in adulthood.

Two thirds of teenage boys and more than half the girls said they were excited by science. But when it came to careers the most popular choice for girls was to be a popstar while the favourite job for boys was a computer expert. Three times as many girls as boys said they would like to be a doctor or nurse.

The children answered questions on science, health and lifestyle habits at Tomorrow’s World roadshow at Earls Court where they were entertained by a travelling pop band, created by Cancer Research UK.

The all-singing, all-dancing band performed a music spectacular designed to inform teenagers about science and cancer.

The band has been performing with the help of an interactive space capsule and science information robot to help put across the charity’s message: to overcome cancer through education, fundraising, recruitment, lifestyle and research.

By stimulating children’s interest in science the charity is hoping that more youngsters will be inspired to take up a career working in the fight against cancer.

When it came to healthy eating two thirds of the London teenage girls and half the boys surveyed said they ate vegetables every day.

Half the children aged between 10-12 said they protected their skin in the sun sometimes but one third admitted to never using sun protection.

Professor John Griffiths, director of Cancer Research UK’s Biomedical Resonance Resarch Group at St George’s Hospital in London says: “We know that children aged 11 to 16 are actively making decisions that will influence their future health.

“It’s crucial that Cancer Research UK gets in early to inform these kids and encourages them to form healthy habits for life. Using a pop band to get this message across is a fantastic idea.”

Dr Lesley Walker, Director of Information at Cancer Research UK, says: “It’s very easy to presume that we know how kids feel. We believe that we have a lot to learn about children’s attitudes and their aspirations for the future and the more we understand, the easier it will be for us to help.”


  1. Almost 600 people took part in the survey


A recent study showed that sunburn in childhood can double the risk of malignant melanoma in adulthood.

It’s estimated that 80 per cent of lifetime exposure to the sun is before the age of 21.

One in five children aged 4 to 18 eat little or no fruit, and on average children eat less than two portions a day.

The incidence of cancer is the UK is increasing. In 1998 there were 7,000 extra cases of the disease compared to 1994.

National statistics for 2000 revealed that 10 per cent of pupils aged 11-15 were regular cigarette smokers (defined as usually smoking at least one cigarette a week) – a drop from 13 per cent in 1996. Although 10 per cent were classed as regular smokers figures showed that 17 per cent of pupils had smoked at least one cigarette in the previous week. Only one per cent of 11 year olds were regular smokers compared with 23 per cent of 15 year olds.

Cancer Research UK recently launched ‘Help A Friend To Stop Smoking’. The project teaches school children how to offer support and effective and realistic advice to friends trying to kick the habit. It develops listening and communication skills and coaches children in how to deal with confidential subjects. It is designed to fit into a school’s curriculum as either a module in Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) or Science classes. The plan is available from the Cancer Research UK website.