CHILDREN from poorer areas are more likely to be exposed to shops selling cigarettes than those in the most affluent areas.

A study by academic researchers in Glasgow tracked the movements of hundreds of children aged 10 and 11 using satellite technology to discover how often they encounter places selling tobacco.

The findings showed that those in the most deprived areas encountered shops selling tobacco almost 150 times a week compared to just 23 times in the least deprived.

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The researchers mapped the location of all shops selling tobacco products across Scotland and followed the movement of 700 10-11-year-olds for eight consecutive days.

They were able to identify how often, and for how long, the children went within 10metres of a shop selling tobacco.

The children were part of the Growing Up in Scotland study and both they, and their parents, agreed to them wearing the GPS trackers.

The study found that the most exposure was from local convenience stores and newsagents.

The peak periods were on their way to and from school and from supermarkets at the weekend.

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There is a display ban on cigarettes and tobacco products and sales to under 18s are illegal.

However, the academics believe that reducing availability can be important in reducing smoking rates among children.

Current research shows that children from more deprived areas are more likely to start smoking themselves, and pre-adolescence is considered a critical period where the path to starting smoking begins.

While smoking rates among adults in Glasgow are 21% the same as Scotland, in the poorest areas the figure is 38%, according to the Scottish Health Survey of 2013 to 2016.

The figure drops to 11% in the least deprived neighbourhoods.

While smoking rates have reduced across the country and in Glasgow in the last 10to 20 years their is still a big gap showing more smokers in the most deprived areas.

Many studies have shown a child born in a more socially deprived community is more likely to grow up around smokers and be born into a family that smokes.

Children of smokers, it has been shown, are more likely to start smoking themselves.

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Dr Fiona Caryl, from the University of Glasgow Social and Public Health Sciences Unit is the lead author of the research.

She said: “Our findings provide a significant contribution to the policy debate on tobacco availability.

“Identifying ways to reverse the normalising effects of ubiquitous tobacco retailing is key to policies aimed at preventing people from starting smoking.”

The study concluded: “By accounting for individual mobility, we showed that children in socially disadvantaged areas accumulate higher levels of exposure to tobacco retailing than expected from disparities in home neighbourhood densities.

“Reducing tobacco outlet availability, particularly in areas frequently used by children, might be crucial to policies aimed at creating ‘tobacco-free’ generations.”

Dr Garth Reid, of NHS Health Scotland, said: “We were pleased to support this innovative research into children and young people’s exposure to tobacco products.

“We welcome the findings, which will inform a report that we will publish later this year, considering the implications for health inequalities and tobacco control in Scotland.”