A British charity has called for a ban on tobacco vending machines in order to protect children from the harmful effects of smoking.
The British Heart Foundation's (BHF) call has the support of Cancer Research UK.
Smoking is known to increase a person's risk of developing heart disease and several types of cancer and also has implications for many other diseases and conditions; nine out of ten cases of lung cancer are due to tobacco products.
According to the charity's latest research nine per cent of 11 to 15-year-olds are regular smokers and as many as one in six of these buy their cigarettes from vending machines but it is thought the real figure is likely to be even higher.
Stuart Barber, head of policy and public affairs at the British Heart Foundation, says children are able to take advantage of the easy way cigarettes can be bought from vending machines and vending machines are an obvious loophole that needs to be closed urgently in order to protect children's health.
Cancer Research UK supports the call to ban vending machines as a measure to reduce the accessibility of cigarettes to young people, but also wants measures introduced to reduce the number of young people who smoke, including price increases and the provision of targeted stop smoking services and support.
They believe the issue must remain a government priority in order to prevent today's youth becoming tomorrow's adult smokers and greatly increasing their risk of developing cancer in later life.
According to the BHF, some 52,500 children get cigarettes from unsupervised machines; they say children who smoke are far more likely to continue smoking in adult life.