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Study shows unchanged teen smoking rates in 40% of countries over past two decades

Ireland is not included in this study, but other data shows a decline in Irish teen smoking levels over time.

Image: Shutterstock/SpeedKingz

A NEW STUDY has shown that smoking levels among 13-15-year-olds in 40% of countries surveyed across the globe remained unchanged or increased between 1999 and 2018. 

The study from the Lancet Child and Adolescent Health journal found differing rates of tobacco use across 140 countries depending on differences in tobacco control measures such as bans on cigarette promotions and advertising. 

Professor Bo Xi from Shandong University in China, who is the lead author of the study, said there are “still large numbers of young people smoking” despite the majority of countries decreasing cigarette use. 

“The fact that in many countries the prevalence of using non-cigarette tobacco products is higher than, or as high as, the prevalence of cigarette use shows us there is still a lot of work to do,” Xi said. 

“The need to strengthen tobacco control efforts, which include specific policies for different tobacco products and a focus on health education for adolescents globally is more important than ever.” 

rates among boys across globe Prevalence of tobacco use among boys based on the most recent Global Youth Tobacco Surveys from 143 countries, 2010–2018. Source: Lancet

The study analysed surveys from more than 1.1 million teenagers aged 13-15 from 140 different countries between 1999 and 2018. 

Ireland was not included in this particular study, but a previous study published in the British Medical Journal in 2018 examined smoking trends among Irish teenagers aged 15-16 between 1995 and 2015.

It found that smoking prevalence dropped from 41% in 1995 to 13% in 2015 among this age cohort. 

The study said that Ireland has “successfully achieved a considerable decrease of adolescent smoking” during this time period after various tobacco control policies were put in place. 

It added that adolescent smoking could be improved further by strengthening enforcement on access to cigarettes and maintaining a “high-intensity tobacco control media campaign” aimed at young people. 

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Other tobacco products

The Lancet study published today found that the rate of those aged 13-15 who said they smoked cigarettes at least once in the past months had decreased in nearly 57% of countries, but remained unchanged or increased in 43%. 

Study authors looked at data from the Global Youth Tobacco Surveys between 1999 and 2018 to assess these trends. 

During this time period, the prevalence of teenagers using other products like chewing tobacco, cigars or e-cigarettes levelled off or increased in nearly 60% of 137 countries. 

Some countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina saw a considerable increase in cigarette use, with the rate increasing from 11.7% in 2008 to 17% in 2013. 

The authors said this could be due to the low cost of cigarettes, poor enforcement of indoor smoking bans and the sale of single cigarettes.  

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