Children as young as ten are being offered £15 shopping vouchers to quit smoking.

The revelation comes from a senior Brighton NHS manager speaking to The Argus about a scheme to entice pregnant women and under-18s to kick their habit.

Yesterday we revealed details of how East Sussex Downs and Weald NHS Trust is offering smokers up to £30 in shopping vouchers to quit in its new scheme.

Speaking to The Argus Kate Lawson, health promotion lead manager for NHS Brighton and Hove, defended the decision to offer pregnant women and under-18s vouchers to quit.

She revealed that a ten-year-old was the youngest person helped by the incentive scheme.

She said: “Stopping smoking is the best thing a young person can do to improve their future health and young people find it particularly hard to quit.

“Evidence shows that motivating a young person with a small cash incentive is the push they need to ask for help.

“One of our programmes offers pregnant teenagers £5 when they have stopped after 28 days and already we have a number of successful quitters.

“In all our incentives programmes for young people we provide support in a way that works for them whether this is by text, email or in person.

“If someone stops when they are young they will feel the benefits immediately and saves the NHS millions of pounds as well as saving lives.”

Underage smoking is problem right across Sussex with thousands of teenagers affected.

According to anti-smoking group ASH, 6% of all children in England aged between 11 and 15 smoke and that 15% of 15-year-olds smoke.

West Sussex Primary Care Trust's most up to date figures suggest that 30% of boys and 20% of girls aged between 14 and 15 smoke.

In East Sussex a reported 15% of 14 and 15-year-olds smoked while a 2006 survey discovered that 25% of ten to 15-year-olds had smoked at least one cigarette.

In Brighton and Hove 15% of boys and 25% of girls aged between 14 and 15 smoke, according to last year's health report for the city.

Anti-smoking group ASH welcomed the initiative to help youngsters off cigarettes but warned there should be more restrictions in the display of cigarettes in shops.

Spokeswoman Amanda Sandford said: “The legal age for buying cigarettes is now 18 but we still have a huge problem with underage smokers in this country.

“It is difficult to get exact figures though because the age was only raised from 16 in 2007. The latest survey is that 6% of children aged between 11 and 15 are regular smokers.

“Amongst 15 year-olds in England 15% are regular smokers. Among 16 and 18 year-olds it is even higher.

“Although it is encouraging that smoking rates are going down with youngsters the younger the person taking up smoking the higher the risk of disease such as lung cancer.

“It's very important to try and dissuade smokers and any investment to try and stop children smoking is welcome.”

She added that tougher restrictions are needed on the sale of tobacco such as under the counter sales and the removal of branding from packets.

She said: “Having cigarettes on display is much more tempting for youngsters who might be tempted to smoke because their friends smoke.”

Brighton Pavilion MP David Lepper agreed there should be tighter controls on the sale of tobacco products and their display.

On the NHS scheme to help young smokers to quit he said: “It's certainly worth trying. The figures show even more why I think we need stricter controls on the sale of tobacco products.”

He added: “I would like to see the same sort of regulation for tobacco products and the sale of them as for alcohol and the same emphasis based on enforcement on shops selling to underage smokers.”