NEARLY 96 per cent of children aged between seven and 15 have never smoked, a survey revealed yesterday. But the findings were immediately attacked because the youngsters gave their answers at home - sometimes in front of their parents. Commissioned by the Tobacco Institute of Hong Kong, the survey was conducted by the Children's Research Unit and Survey Research Hongkong. 'The result clearly shows that children in this age group are predominantly a non-smoking generation in Hong Kong,' said Glen Smith, unit chairman. The children were aware of a wide variety of product advertising, including tobacco and alcohol, but that did not translate into usage, he said. A survey commissioned by the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health (COSH) in November 1994 showed 61 per cent of junior high school boys and 48 per cent of girls had smoked cigarettes before they were 16. The researchers also concluded that teenagers' smoking habits were heavily influenced by direct and indirect tobacco promotions and advertisements. Mr Smith criticised the COSH survey, conducted by the University of Hong Kong's Department of Community Medicine under the supervision of Professor Anthony Hedley, as having questions carrying implied negatives about smoking. Angeline O'Yang Ying-lan, COSH's executive director, said she had confidence in Professor Hedley's well-established expertise. Mr Smith said the one-to-one approach his team used and the home environment had improved his survey's accuracy. But Professor Hedley said: 'It is very dangerous to study forbidden behaviour in the home. It is a threatening environment for this type of survey.' Mr Smith denied his surveys were biased, saying if the interviewer ever sensed the child was being influenced in their answers by their parents' presence then questions were stopped.