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Teen boys can walk their way out of an early smoking habit

Teen boys who exercise are more likely to quit smoking than those who receive only anti-smoking advice, according to a new study.

Exercise doesn't have a comparable effect on teenage girls who smoke, however, and researchers don't know why.

The American study, published last week in the journal Pediatrics, took place in West Virginia, where roughly a third of all high-school students are smokers. It was sparked by previous studies which found that in adults, exercise -- even if it's just a walk around the block -- can help curb smoking by easing withdrawal symptoms and controlling cravings.

For young smokers, it's crucial to break the habit before adulthood. Studies show that beginning smoking as a teenager makes it much more difficult to quit later on. About 80pc of adult smokers began their habit before turning 18.

The study's researchers recruited 233 smokers aged 14 to 19, and gave one group of students a single smoking-cessation session, while a second group went through a 10-week anti-smoking course. A third group went through an anti-smoking course and were given pedometers and counselling on starting an exercise plan.

After three months, the study found that only 5pc of the students who got the single anti-smoking session had quit smoking. Yet almost twice as many who went through the 10-week programme had quit.

Yet when exercise was added to the mix, the effect on boys was remarkable: 24pc of male students in the exercise group quit smoking.

The teenage girls in the exercise group were no more likely to have quit smoking than those who received only counselling, however.

>anna coogan