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More than half a million young people took up smoking to combat the stress and boredom of lockdown.

The number of 18 to 34-year-olds sparking up increased by 25 per cent — an extra 652,000 people — a worrying study revealed.

And an extra 4.5 million people, mainly women, developed drink problems, researchers from University College London found.

The study showed a 40 per cent rise in problem drinking across all age groups. Women were most affected, with a 55 per cent increase.

Younger people, particularly those from poorer backgrounds, were most likely to start smoking.