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A survey of the smoking habits and opinions of over 15,000 children aged 8-19 years, in full or part-time education, was carried out in northern England in December 1982. Highly significant differences were observed between the opinions of smokers and non-smokers on the reasons for and against smoking. There were dramatic variations with age: the youngest children, smokers and non-smokers, tended to support the visual aspects of smoking, while the older ones were largely in favour of the supposed psychological and physiological benefits to smokers themselves. Non-smokers showed less variation with age than smokers did. Compared with earlier surveys, the main changes were the increase in admission of the health risks and loss of the `tough' image for the older children. In antismoking education it is important to know what beliefs children of different ages hold in order to make the message relevant to them. It is also important to counteract the forces that may be creating their concepts about smoking.