Sunday 26 January 2020

One teenager in five has tried vaping as cigarette use declines

Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo:Gareth Chaney/Collins
Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo:Gareth Chaney/Collins
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Vaping has tightened its grip on Irish teens with more than one-in-five 12 to 17-year-olds admitting they have tried e-cigarettes.

This contrasts with just 11pc who have tried smoking traditional cigarettes - down from 16pc in four years.

The latest survey on schoolchildren's behaviour shows more than half who have taken alcohol got it from a parent, guardian, sibling, family home, pub or bar.

Cannabis use had fallen but some 7pc have used the drug in the previous year, 4pc in the last month, the Department of Health-commissioned survey for 2018 shows.

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Overall, the numbers who said they never had an alcoholic drink rose to 64pc, an increase of six percentage points since 2014.

And fewer 15 to 17-year-olds are having sex, although contraceptive use is also down.

The findings showed a drop in life satisfaction and happiness, particularly among girls.

However, there has been a five percentage-point rise in children reporting being bullied, with most of this happening in real life rather than online.

Just a quarter reported eating fruit more than once a day.

There has been a drop of one percentage point who consume vegetables daily, to 21pc. Around 27pc said they eat sweets once or more often a day, down from 34pc.

Daily consumption of soft drinks was also down, from 13pc to 6pc.

Some 30pc of children report being bullied in the past couple of months, up from 25pc in 2014. Some 16pc reported being cyberbullied, which the report categorised separately.

There was a drop in life satisfaction and happiness from 47pc to 43pc in 2014.

Around a quarter of 15-to-17-year-olds report ever having had sexual intercourse, down from 27pc in 2014. However, of those reporting having sex the use of the birth control pill has fallen four percentage points to 29pc in 2018, while there is a nine percentage-point reduction to 64pc in those reporting use of condoms.

Commenting on the findings, Health Minister Simon Harris said the number of teenagers trying e-cigarettes and vaping products was a cause for concern. "[This] will be addressed by measures I will introduce in 2020, including new legislation to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to children under the age of 18," he said.

"Given the damaging effect that alcohol can have on the growing brain, the reduction in children trying alcohol and children reporting having been drunk is welcome," he added.

"However, I am struck by the finding that by far the most common source of alcohol for children is within their family home. This is an issue that all of us, as parents and adults in the lives of young people, need to reflect on.

"We need to change our culture around alcohol in Ireland, if we are to reduce the corrosive effects alcohol has on so many young lives."

Mr Harris said that the figures on bullying and sexual health underscore the importance of the work the department and the HSE are doing with parents, schools and youth organisations to help young people develop the skills to build resilience, confidence and healthy relationships.

Minister of State Catherine Byrne said: "One concerning finding is the slight drop in overall feeling of happiness and life satisfaction which is mirrored in other recent surveys of our young people."

Irish Independent

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