SMOKING among secondary school pupils in Swindon has more than halved over the past ten years, hitting a record low in 2013.

The number of smokers aged between 11 and 15 years old in the town, as in England, dropped to three per cent last year, the lowest reported rate since 1982, according to the latest national figures released by the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

In 2003, nine per cent of schoolchildren were regular smokers.

The proportion of young people who tried smoking also went from 42 per cent in 2003 to 22 per cent in 2013.

Smoking among 15 year olds fell to eight per cent – well below the Government target of 12 per cent by 2015.

Many factors, including regular campaigns and the increasing cost of cigarettes, all played a role in this new downward trend, said Cherry Jones, acting director of public health at Swindon Council.

“In line with national figures, there are clear indications that smoking among young people in Swindon is declining,” she said.

“Although, for the age of 11-15 year olds, this isn’t measured statistically, surveys in local secondary schools follow this downward trend. Awareness raising about, for instance, the health impact and financial costs of smoking starts in schools for children from the age of 11. We deliver the facts and certainly smoking is less considered to be ‘cool’ these days.

“This can be attributed to a range of issues – including education, packaging featuring graphic images of lung disease, restricting the display of tobacco in shops, and the fact that fewer adults, including parents, are smoking.

“The current public health campaign, highlighting the dangers of illegal tobacco is also relevant, as we know that cost is another significant factor for young people.”

The local authority’s recent efforts to clamp down on illegal tobacco sold to children may have also had an impact on smoking figures.

“Driving out the sale of illegal cigarettes and tobacco, sold at pocket money prices, is paramount,” she added. “We work closely with Trading Standards to achieve this and following raids last month, some £5,000 worth of potential sales, assuming a cost of £4 per pack, was successfully removed from this illicit market.”