PETS passively smoke thousands of cigarettes a year, according to new research.

New figures have revealed 78 per cent of pet owners in the UK are knowingly harming their pets by smoking around them, with the average cat or dog smoking 3,285 cigarettes each year.

The new findings from MORE TH>N insurance have been released ahead of the start of Stoptober, an NHS anti-smoking campaign designed to encourage smokers to give up for good, or at least the month of October.

Smokers who own pets smoke an average of nine cigarettes in their home each day despite the majority knowing their habit could be harmful to their pets.

However, 68 per cent said it would encourage them to give up smoking if it made their pet ill.

The research, which coincides with ‘Stoptober’, Public Health England’s campaign encouraging smokers to quit for 28 days, reveals that almost a quarter chain smoke 15 or more cigarettes in their home on a daily basis.

A further 20 per cent of pet owners admit their cat or dog has even eaten cigarettes or smoking-related items in the past, including e-cigarettes.

The findings also reveal how cats or dogs react when their owner begins to smoke, with 30 per cent saying their pet moves away from them.

A total of 17 per cent said their pet sits beside them and 13 per cent of pets appear to enjoy the smell of cigarettes, leaving them more exposed to the dangers of passive smoking.

However, the research did reveal that more than two thirds said it would encourage them to quit smoking if they found out it had made their pet ill.

Research has shown that cats that live with smokers are about twice as likely to develop a malignant lymphoma and dogs that live with smokers are 60 per cent more likely to develop lung cancer.

Andrew Moore, director of pet claims at MORE TH>N and a qualified vet, said: “This Stoptober, MORE TH>N is calling on pet owners to give up smoking.

"Passive smoking is just as dangerous for pets as it is for humans, and increases the likelihood of them developing cancer and a range of other health issues.

"We urge pet owners that smoke to avoid doing so around their pets or inside their home to reduce their exposure to second-hand smoke.

"Our pets dedicate their lives to us so it is important that we thank them by keeping them happy and healthy.”