‘Teenagers have power to be first tobacco-free generation’

Irish teenagers taking on the ‘big tobacco’ industry have the power to become the country’s first tobacco-free generation, a campaign group has claimed.

‘Teenagers have power to be first tobacco-free generation’

The Irish Cancer Society hailed the ‘X-generation’ as it honoured youth groups from around the country for mounting anti-smoking campaigns aimed at their peers as part of its pioneering X-Hale initiative.

Figures show youth smoking rates here are falling, with almost nine out of 10 young people now smoke- free. Over a fifth were considered ‘current smokers’ in 1998 compared to just over a tenth in 2010 — a reduction of nearly half.

“In line with the messages highlighted by the young people taking part in X-Hale, youth smoking rates in Ireland have continued to decline in recent years, giving this generation of young people the power and the opportunity to make sure that they are Ireland’s first tobacco-free generation,” the society said.

Its X-Hale initiative, which has been running for five years, has played a key role in driving down the rates of youth smoking.

More than 41 youth groups took part in this year’s initiative, with films and community action projects designed to create awareness around the issue of smoking in their own communities.

Cobh Youth Services in Co Cork came away with the top award in the Community Action category.

Ten teens in the group created smoking prevention messages tailored specifically for young people, and developed a presentation, animation, and rap which they delivered in five primary schools in their area.

Health promotion manager Kevin O’Hagan said projects such as this are extremely powerful.

“They can be Ireland’s first smoke-free generation and they are telling us in their own way that the time is up for the tobacco industry in this country,” he said.

“We need to look at what Cobh Youth Services and the rest of the X-generation are saying. They are educated on the issue of smoking and are refusing to let their health be affected by tobacco.”

Society chief executive John McCormack said it is fantastic to see young people lead the anti-smoking fight.

“The tobacco industry needs to realise that the X-generation is here to stay and time is up for ‘big tobacco’ in Ireland,” he said

Last year, smoking prevalence was lowest among the 15 to 17 age group at 7.9%. Smoking rates were highest among young adults (18 to 34 years), reaching 27.3% in the 25- to 34-year-old age group.

Meanwhile, the Commercial Court has refused an application by the State to have various questions it has on the lawfulness of its plain cigarette packaging legislation referred to the European Union Court of Justice on the grounds that it would be “unnecessary, premature, and wasteful of costs”.

The tobacco group JTI Ireland welcomed the ruling and said the EU court is already looking at a similar referral from the UK courts.

“The outcome of this UK case will be absolutely critical to the right of any EU member state to introduce plain packaging, which is why we asked the Government to wait for a decision before enacting the legislation,” said spokesman Igor Dzaja. “An Irish referral would also have had the potential to delay the European court’s decision, which is something we want to avoid.”

New tobacco regulations are due to come into force across the EU next May.

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