Fewer children smoking, study finds

There has been a drop in the number of children smoking, but retailers are still flouting the law by selling cigarettes to minors, according to a new report.

The all-Ireland report, A Tobacco-Free Future, focused primarily on children and pregnant women and found declines in smoking rates among both groups north and south of the border over the past decade.

However, it also showed that children born into an economically-disadvantaged household are more likely to breathe second-hand smoke at home, and are also more likely to try smoking at a younger age.

According to the report, smoking during pregnancy fell by around a third in the last 10 years, but the decline was more marked in the North and data indicated that approximately 18% of expectant mothers smoked in 2007/8 in the Republic.

The report, published by the Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH) and the Tobacco-Free Research Institute Ireland (TFRI), also showed a fall in the proportion of 10-17-year-olds who said they had ever smoked, from 36% to 27%, between 2006 and 2010.

Dr Helen McAvoy of the IPH said there were “signs of improvement”, but that social inequalities were a big factor in smoking prevalence. Children in the Republic aged nine and from the lowest-income families were twice as likely to be exposed to second-hand smoke in the home as children in the highest income families.

Professor Luke Clancy (TFRI) said more action was needed to tackle inequalities and to ensure shopkeepers follow the law.

“There is no doubt that the law is not rigidly enforced,” said Prof Clancy, adding that minors were buying cigarettes themselves or getting others to do so.

He said there was a need for price hikes and a better quality of cessation services.

“I think there should be a [price] rise of one to two euro, so you actually feel it.”

A separate study by the London Economics consultancy group said the smoking rate in Australia had remained unchanged since the introduction of plain packaging a year ago.

* Read the Irish report: http://exa.mn/1e3


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