A matched sample of 300 children was selected from 7,115 Derbyshire primary school children, who had completed an initial screening questionnaire on smoking and respiratory symptoms in March 1971. In July 1971, 293 of the 300 children (229 boys and 64 girls) completed a second questionnaire giving information about their first cigarette, smoking by their parents, siblings, and friends, and also their reasons for smoking or not. Because of the small number of girls, only the results from the boys are reported here. Over a period of four months only 63% of the children were consistent in their replies.
It would appear that the parents and brothers living in the household, as well as friends, influence boys to take up smoking. Over half of the smokers were given their first cigarette. Eleven per cent of the boys were given their first cigarette by their parents.
The children's attitudes to smoking were complex. They did not think smoking was enjoyable. Non-smokers saw smoking as showing off. Most of the children thought smoking caused cancer, but some of these did not see this as a health hazard. Few children saw curiosity as an important reason for smoking. This may have implications for effective antismoking education.