Teenage smoking rate drops by 28%

The rate at which young people in Ireland are smoking has plummeted, with a new study showing the dramatic impact of falls in peer smoking and increased difficulty in getting cigarettes in the first place.

The smoking rate among teenagers dropped by 28% over a 20-year period, with researchers claiming that the rate of adolescent smoking will reach the Tobacco Free Ireland target of 5% by 2025, given the rate of decline.

The research, published in medical journal BMJ Open, looked at trends in smoking among Irish adolescents aged 15–16 years between 1995 and 2015 and the factors associated with their smoking behaviours between 2007 and 2015.

Using data from the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs Ireland, it found the prevalence of smoking in that age group had dropped from 41% in 1995 to 13% in 2015.

It noted a number of trends which emerged over the research period, including peer smoking and difficulty in getting tobacco in the first place.

For example, in 2007 and 2011, only about 12% of the students reported that none of their friends smoked, but by 2015 this figure had increased to 34%.

The proportion of students who claimed most/all of their friends smoked fell from 20% in 2007 to 11% in 2015.

Access to cigarettes had also become more difficult, with students who reported that it was difficult to obtain cigarettes increasing from 12% in 2007 to 28% in 2015.

More students also claimed that their parents always know where they spend Saturday nights, from 48% in 2007 to 63% in 2015.

Back in 1995 smoking was more prevalent among teenage girls than among boys in the same age group, but by 2015 for the first time a higher percentage of boys, 13.1%, said they had smoked over the preceding 30 days than girls, at 12.8%.

When it came to predicting adolescent smoking, the study said peer smoking has the strongest effect, while “family appears to play an important role in adolescent smoking. Students whose parents usually do not know their whereabouts on Saturday nights are about three times more likely to smoke than the ones whose parents always know”.

Students who skip more days off school are also more likely to smoke.

Professor Luke Clancy, director of the Tobacco Free Research Institute Ireland, said:

“The role of increased efforts to highlight the risks involved in smoking and the positive role that parental involvement can make is clear from the results.

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

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