CALLS have been made to discourage Wee County young people from smoking after a survey revealed a significant rise in children trying e-cigarettes.

The Clackmannanshire findings in the 2018 Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (Salsus), completed last year and published last week, showed a 20 per cent increase over the past five years in the number of 15-year-olds who reported to have tried the electronic alternative.

Altogether, 42 per cent of the pupils asked in that age group said they either tried or are using e-cigarettes, up from 22 per cent in 2013 and eight per cent higher than the most recent Scottish average.

However, only five per cent of this group said they used the electronic tobacco alternative once a week or more – which the survey considers regular use.

In comparison, just 36 per cent of local 15-year-olds asked in the survey reported they had ever smoked tobacco, down six per cent since 2013 but higher by the same margin than the current national average.

But when it came to regular smoking, 14 per cent of the young people said they smoked one or more cigarettes a week, up five per cent since 2013 and seven per cent higher than the Scottish average for 2018.

Linda McLeod BEM, chair of respiratory illness support group Breathe Easy Clackmannanshire, knows the negative effects of smoking first hand.

She said: "It is concerning to see an increase in the number of young people in Clacks who are saying that they are regular smokers.

"As teenagers' brains are still developing, nicotine is even more powerfully addictive for them.

"We need to stop them from forming a lifelong habit which will damage their lungs."

Of the local pupils who were considered regular smokers, 59 per cent had smoked for more than a year, 38 per cent reported they would like to give up, 66 per cent had tried to do so at some time and 62 per cent reported they would find it "very" or "fairly difficult" to quit.

Almost a third who had smoked for more than a year told the survey it would be "very difficult" to give up.

Linda added: "Because it's so much easier for teenager to get hooked on nicotine, it makes it so much harder for them to quit smoking.

"We need to ensure that schools have the resources to help pupils quit smoking as soon as possible, as well as discouraging them from using cigarettes and e-cigarettes in the first place."

Linda is also calling for restrictions on the marketing of e-cigarettes toward young people.

Similar measures are already in place for traditional cigarettes with plain packaging rules in force.

Research at the nearby University of Stirling was pivotal in bringing about that change in law.