High levels of obesity, tooth decay and underage smoking found among Camden youngsters

A large percentage of Camden's teenagers smoke occasionally of regularly, a report has revealed. Pic

A large percentage of Camden's teenagers smoke occasionally of regularly, a report has revealed. Picture: Jonathan Brady - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Significant numbers of Camden schoolchildren are overweight, smoke illegally and suffer from tooth decay, a health report has revealed.

Figures released last week show that higher numbers of pupils at the borough’s schools are obese, overweight or suffer from tooth cavities than the national average.

A quarter of pupils aged between 12 and 15 admitted to smoking occasionally or regularly, according to the Camden Council report.

A council spokesman said obesity and dental decay are “closely linked with inequality” in the borough.

He added: “Oral health, obesity and smoking are among the health challenges faced by the council to meet our aspirations to support the health and wellbeing of Camden.

“We use a range of methods to undertake this and are constantly looking to improve the health of all of our residents.”

More than a third of five-year-olds suffered tooth decay in 2012, an increase of about 5 per cent since 2008 from 31.4pc to 36.3pc. The figure is about 8pc higher than the national average of 27.9pc. The council has poured investment into a service to promote children’s oral health to address the high levels of tooth decay among Camden five-year-olds.

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Since February, it has also run a pilot scheme at four primary schools and three children’s centres giving children fluoride varnish, a protective gel which can reduce rates of tooth decay by about 46pc.

The council plans to extend the trial until June 2015 at four more schools and three more children’s centres.

The report also revealed that more than a third, or 34.3pc, of Year 6 children were obese or overweight during the last school year, compared with a national average of 33.3pc.

Between reception and Year 6, the number of overweight children jumps from 12.2pc to 13.3pc, while the number of obese children increases from 10pc to 21pc.

Meanwhile, 150 pupils between Year 8 and Year 10 described themselves as occasional or regular smokers in the council’s most recent survey of tobacco use among a sample of 632 schoolchildren during the last school year.

The results showed more schoolgirls than boys smoke, with 15pc of girls admitting to smoking regularly or occasionally, compared with 9pc of boys.

The report, which was presented to Camden’s children, schools and families scrutiny committee on Tuesday of last week, highlighted a number of council-run healthy eating and living initiatives to combat smoking at schools and childhood obesity, including workshops for parents and training for teachers.