Study reveals a dramatic increase in number of young people who tried smoking between 11-15
Several EU member states have alarmingly high smoking
prevalence amongst young people and reducing smoking in youth is a
crucial task for tobacco control.
The EU anti-smoking campaign HELP - For a life without
Tobacco - highlighted, in a major review of research, the
alarmingly high numbers of young people who smoke.
The "Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children Study", which
analysed the smoking behaviours in adolescents from 35 countries,
revealed a dramatic increase in the number of young people who
reported having tried smoking between the ages of 11 and
"There is a dramatic increase of 11-to-15-year-olds smoking," says
Professor Luke Clancy, chairman of Ash and Director General of the
Research Institute for a Tobacco Free Society. "Most young people
begin to experiment with tobacco products in young adolescence, but
what's shocking is that one-in-six 11-year-olds have tried at least
one cigarette in their lives. If these children don't manage to
quit, one-in-two will die as a result."
Reducing smoking in youth is a crucial task for tobacco control.
Several Member States in Europe have alarmingly high smoking
prevalence amongst young people.
Among school-going children in Ireland, 19 per cent are current
smokers, while 41per cent of the children (11-17 years of age) said
they had smoked a cigarette.
At the age of 15, the lifetime prevalence has increased by more
than four times to 62 per cent.
These results are especially alarming, since early onset of
smoking is one of the most important predictors for later smoking
and it also correlates with heavier smoking.
The main factors promoting smoking in young people are economic and
"Easy access to tobacco, exposure to advertising and weak tobacco
control efforts are environmental factors encouraging young people
to start smoking," says Prof Clancy.
"Since price is the single most important factor in preventing
children from starting smoking. We missed a great opportunity to
increase the price of cigarettes in the last budget, at a time when
the workplace ban suggested Ireland was getting serious about
Higher prices on cigarettes are extremely effective in preventing
young people from starting smoking, and reducing the number of
cigarettes they smoke.
Advertising bans, which need to cover all types of tobacco
promotion, from branded ashtrays to billboards, are also a
particularly effective way of helping the young to avoid
"Preventing the onset of smoking in young people would result in
the greatest population health gain," says Prof Clancy. "However,
the reasons why young people start smoking are complex. We know
about the influences on adolescent smoking, but why some youth
experiment and stop smoking, whereas others experiment and progress
to dependence, remains unanswered. But clearly this is an area
where evidence based research is badly needed," he said.
The HELP-campaign (www. help-eu.com) is dedicated to the reduction
of smoking in youth and is targeted especially at young people aged
15 and 18 and young adults aged 18 and 30.
The Tobacco Control Communications Network is represented in
Ireland by Prof Luke Clancy, ASH Ireland; Chris Fitzgerald, Health
Promotion Unit, Department of Health & Children; Norma
Cronin,Quitline and Carr Communications.
In Ireland, about 7,000 people a year die prematurely from smoking
related diseases - 10 times more than the number killed in road
accidents. Non-smokers have at least a 35 per cent increased risk
of lung cancer.
Smoking in pregnancy can cause miscarriage, reduced birth weight
for gestation and perinatal death.
Over 30,525 smokers contacted the National Smokers Quitline since
it was launched in October 2003. A total of 49.9 per cent of
callers were male and 50.1 per cent were female. Calls from
children and young people in the 10-20 age group accounted for 9.40
Where parents continue to smoke after pregnancy, there is an
increased rate of sudden infant death syndrome. The nicotine is
believed to cause the babies' breathing and pulse to weaken.
Smokers lose an average of 15 years life expectancy.
Smoking in the presence of infants and children is a cause of
respiratory illness and asthmatic attacks.
Middle-ear disease in children is also linked to environmental
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among men and
second most common cause of cancer death among women.