London, May 9 : A new study from the universities of Bristol and Cardiff suggests that peer influence can effectively cut the number of children taking up regular smoking habit.
The researchers revealed that training children who are popular at school to warn their peers about the smoking hazards successfully reduced the number by more than a fifth.
For the two-year study, the researchers took up 59 schools in the West Country with 11,000 children from 12 to 13 years.
In half of the schools the students were told to nominate the most influential pupils, who were later trained as "peer supporters". The other half was the control group.
During a two-day training held outside the schools, the teachers alerted the students told about the risks of smoking and economic benefits of kicking the butt.
Four sessions were held in the school where the peer supporters included existing smokers who were told they could be trained if they gave up smoking.
For the next 10 weeks, the peer supporters talked to their friends about the benefits of not smoking, in order to convince them to give up the habit.
The researchers found that pupils in schools that ran the training programme were 25 per cent less likely to take up cigarette smoking, reports The Lancet.
However, the study also revealed that effect dwindled over the time, with a 23 per cent reduction in smoking after one year and 15 per cent after two.
The authors said that stopping young people from smoking also effectively thwarted developing the diseases associated with it.
The study results are published in The Lancet.