An NHS study has found that children are starting to smoke at the age of NINE in Britain's most deprived town - with some lighting up for the first time at the age of THREE.
The study was conducted in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales - an area with high unemployment and benefit claimants - after local doctors noted an alarming number of tobacco-related illnesses.
One little boy became hooked on nicotine at THREE after his parents gave him cigarettes for their own amusement.
Tracey Bowen, one of the research team who oversaw the study told The Sun: 'Unfortunately it is realistic. I had a patient who started between two and three. His parents gave him cigarettes because they thought it was funny.'
Previous figures have suggested over 80 percent of British smokers have started smoking by the age of 19.
Professor Paul Aveyard from Birmingham University said of the latest report: 'These figures are truly alarming. Childhood smoking is quite rare - less than one per cent of people under 11 smoke regularly - so this is unusual.
'It is worrying as you become more addicted to smoking the earlier you start. Starting younger is also associated with a higher risk of smoking-related diseases.'
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