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Half of children who smoke had their first cigarette aged 13 or younger

However, a new report out today shows that smoking rates among school-aged children are down overall — dropping from 21 per cent in 1998 to 12 per cent in 2010.
Sep 23rd 2013, 3:06 PM 4,567 16

A NEW REPORT looking at young people”s health behaviour shows that, amongst school-aged children, 49 per cent of those who smoke had their first cigarette at the age of 13 or younger. Similar research carried out in 1998 showed that 61 per cent had had their first smoking experience at the age of 13 or before.

Overall smoking rates are down — the survey reports that in 2010, 12 per cent of those aged 17 and under said they smoked, compared to 21 per cent in 1998.

The figure in terms of alcohol use was more-or-less unchanged: 28 per cent reported that they had been drunk, compared to 29 per cent in the earlier study. 8 per cent reported that they had used cannabis in 2010, compared to the earlier figure of 10 per cent.

Seatbelts

The report also showed a huge increase in the numbers wearing seatbelts: the figure doubling to 82 per cent in the 12 years between the two studies.

The findings under the category of ‘happiness’ were more or less unchanged: in 1998, 89 per cent of children said they were happy with their life, while in 2010 the corresponding figure was 91 per cent.

Health Minister James Reilly said he was encouraged by the decrease in the number of children who had admitted smoking.

“This is a step in the right direction and I hope to see this continue for the good of all our children,” Minister Reilly said.

As Minister for Health I have placed a high priority in highlighting the deadly dangers of smoking, in particular, for our children and I will continue that battle.

The research was carried out by the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway, and brings together data from almost 40,000 children to examine key trends and patterns.

Read: Life as a 3-year-old Growing Up in Ireland >

Revealed: The life of a 13-year-old growing up in Ireland >

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Daragh Brophy

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