School-age smoking rate plunges 50% in 12 years

The percentage of school-aged children smoking in Ireland has almost halved since 1998 and the likelihood is that the country will be effectively smoke-free by 2025.

Figures highlighted by the Irish Cancer Society yesterday show that little more than one in 10 young people in Ireland now smoke.

According to a Health Behaviour in School-aged Children survey, more than one fifth of young people (21.2%) were considered as ‘current smokers’ in 1998, compared to 11.9% in 2010.

These figures were celebrated at the Irish Cancer Society’s X-Hale Film Festival in the Lighthouse Cinema in Smithfield, Dublin, yesterday, which was attended by hundreds of young people from across the country. In total, 43 youth groups from all over Ireland showcased their films at the festival and all explored the issue of smoking.

Overall, a significant decline was also seen between 2002 and 2010 in the percentage of young people who reported having their first cigarette at age 13 or younger. This fell from 60.2% trying their first cigarette at aged 13 or younger in 2002 to 48.9% in 2010. The figures show that Ireland is on track to become tobacco-free, in line with the Government’s Tobacco-Free Ireland policy to have less than 5% of the population smoking by 2025.

The films showcased at the festival highlighted the harmful effects of smoking. Respiratory problems, reduced physical fitness, displeasing aesthetical effects and financial implications were all explored on the big screen as the entrants looked to encourage other young people who may be smoking to quit and to discourage others not to start.

The films have been available to view online at www.cancer.ie/xhale over the past two weeks and, to date, have received an excess of 21,000 views. They are also available to view on on Facebook by searching for ‘XhaleYouthAwards’.

John McCormack, CEO of the Irish Cancer Society, said: “The trend in Ireland around smoking is changing. We are seeing a huge cultural shift in how smoking is treated and how it is perceived. We are delighted that these youth groups from across the country have spoken for themselves and they are so passionate about creating awareness around the negative effects of tobacco.”

Kevin O’Hagan, health promotion manager at the Irish Cancer Society, said: “We know that the tobacco industry needs to target teenagers to replace the smokers who have already died from their addiction or who have quit.

“The X-Hale Film Festival gives the next generation the opportunity to fight back and they have certainly done that via the 47 films which have been showcased today.”

This is the fourth year of the X-Hale Youth Awards, which began in December 2010 when the Irish Cancer Society invited applications from youth groups from all over Ireland for funding under the scheme. Since its inception, the Irish Cancer Society has invested €115,000 in support for youth groups across the country.

The X-Hale Film Festival is an Irish Cancer Society project in partnership with the National Youth Council of Ireland.

- Anyone who is looking to quit smoking should contact the National Smokers Quitline on 1800 201 203 or visit HERE for information and support.


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