Wednesday 19 December 2018

Dramatic drop in smoking by Irish teenagers, new study reveals

The historic pattern of teenage girls smoking more than boys no longer exists

Stock image of young person smoking
Stock image of young person smoking
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

There has been a dramatic drop in smoking among Irish teenagers over the past 20 years, a new study shows.

Smoking prevalence –  the measure was whether or not the student had smoked in the previous 30 days  - among 15-16 year olds has declined from 41pc in 1995, to 13pc in 2015.

The other big finding is that the historic pattern of teenage girls smoking more than boys was eliminated in 2015.

The authors of the study, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), include Professor Luke Clancy Director of the Tobacco Free Research Institute Ireland, based at Dublin Institute of Technology.

Professor Clancy said the role of increased efforts to highlight the risks involved in smoking and the positive role that parental involvement could make was clear from the results.

“Now that we have established these positive influences, we can examine ways of maximising their impact,” he said.

The study is based on data from the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs Ireland – surveys are conducted every four years - over two decades.

In 1995, smoking prevalence in girls was 45pc and in boys in was 37pc - in 2015, it was down to  about 13pc for both, with slightly fewer girls smoking than boys.

Interventions that reduce smoking prevalence in adults are well established such as price, advertising bans, graphic warnings, plain packaging, health warnings and removal of vending machines.

All of these also help to reduce smoking in young people, but the study looked at some specific factors relevant to the school situation.

Perceived family wealth or family structure, such as single parenthood, were found not to be  significant in whether a 15-16 year old smoked.

Factors identified in teenagers  who were more likely to “light up” were if they had friends who smoked, parents who didn’t know where they were on Saturday nights, had easy access to cigarettes or skipped school.

Prof Clancy said the result of the study suggested  that smoking among 15-16 year olds can achieve the Tobacco Free Ireland strategy of less than 5pc prevalence by 2025,  if tobacco control measures continued to be enforced and strengthened.

“This is now the challenge facing our government and indeed wider society. Close to 6,000 of our citizens die annually from tobacco related disease – we must continue to focus on reducing this dreadful statistic,” he said.

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