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Barking MP Margaret Hodge has warned young people not to take up smoking, and says she regrets ever starting.

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Mrs Hodge took up the habit when she was 18, and finally quit when she was 31.

She said: “I was daft to smoke as a kid. I really regret it. I wish I’d never started.”

The MP is backing London24 publisher Archant London, which has teamed up with the Deborah Hutton Campaign to address the dangers of young people smoking.

Deborah Hutton was a highly acclaimed journalist who died from lung cancer in 2005, aged 49, after smoking in her teenage years.

Mrs Hodge has lost a friend to lung cancer, a woman who took up smoking at about the same time as the MP.

Giving up smoking is up to an individual, but Mrs Hodge believes it is better not to start in the first place.

She said: “I stopped and started again and again and I finally really stopped when I was 26.

“I had two children and then took up smoking again, and stopped for the final time at 31.

“Once you’re an addict, you’re always an addict.

“When my dad was dying he asked me to light him a cigarette and I could feel the urge then after smelling it.

“It’s such an easy thing to control. It’s in you. If you give up, it could extend your life.”

The Deborah Hutton campaign runs the Cut Films national short-film competition, for which young people are invited to research smoking, make a two-minute film about it for their friends, upload it to a special website and share it on social media.

The aim is for talented teenagers from the borough to send a very clear message to their peers – that smoking kills in later life.

As well as the overall prize, there is a special Archant London award for the best film from the capital city.

Winning entrants could scoop Kindles, iPods and festival tickets, among other prizes, plus recognition for having made a highly skilful and acclaimed piece of film.

The competition closes for entries on Friday, April 20, and voting for the films closes on Monday, April 30.

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