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Home > Youth smoking in Ireland: findings from the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children survey.

Millar, Sean (2018) Youth smoking in Ireland: findings from the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children survey. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 67, Autumn 2018, pp. 9-10.

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Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in Ireland.1 As smoking typically initiates in youth, and given the highly addictive properties of nicotine, a high proportion will continue to smoke into adulthood with negative health consequences. The Health Service Executive (HSE) has recently published a report detailing findings from an Irish study that examined smoking behaviours in Ireland among children aged 9–18 years using data from the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey.2 Key findings from the report are discussed below.

 

Characteristics of young people who smoke in Ireland

It was found that 16% of children aged 9+ had smoked cigarettes in their lifetime, while 6% were classified as current smokers. Of these, 54% smoked every day, with 19% smoking at least once a week, and 27% smoking less often than once a week. The likelihood of being a current smoker increased with increasing age and lower socioeconomic status. There were no significant differences between boys and girls with regard to current smoking status.

 

Impact of smoking on health and wellbeing

After accounting for age, gender and social class, the study observed that children who smoked were almost 12 times more likely to have consumed alcohol and approximately 39 times more likely to have consumed cannabis in the last month; they were seven times more likely to have reported ever having had sex. Smokers were also three times more likely to have reported fair or poor health, to not being happy with life, and to disliking school. They were also more likely to have been in a fight in the last 12 months compared to non-smokers.

 

Impact of tobacco control measures

It was found that after controlling for age, gender and social class variables, smokers were less likely to have an understanding of the harms of smoking. Smokers were more likely to think that cigarette packs ‘looked cool’, to report that they had no smoking restrictions in their households, and twice as likely to report that they had no smoking restrictions in their family cars when compared to non-smokers. Children who smoked were also more likely to report that they found it easy to purchase cigarettes or that they found it easy to find someone to purchase cigarettes for them.

 

Conclusions

The authors note that progress has been made in Ireland in preventing smoking initiation in children and young people and that the Government has made a welcome commitment to bring the tobacco epidemic to an end through its Tobacco Free Ireland programme.1

 

However, they stress that a continued focus on initiation prevention will be critical to success. By identifying demographic factors independently associated with smoking behaviours, the current report will enable policymakers take a more focused approach to the problem.

  

1  Department of Health (2013) Tobacco free Ireland: report of the Tobacco Policy Review Group. Dublin: Department of Health. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/20655/

2  Evans D, O’Farrell A, Sheridan A and Kavanagh P (2018) Youth smoking in Ireland: a special analysis of the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study. Dublin: Health Service Executive. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/29202/

Item Type
Article
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Tobacco / Nicotine
Intervention Type
Harm reduction, Screening / Assessment
Issue Title
Issue 67, Autumn 2018
Date
November 2018
Page Range
pp. 9-10
Publisher
Health Research Board
Volume
Issue 67, Autumn 2018
EndNote

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