Significant downward trend in number of children who smoke

12% of 10 to 17-year-olds reported smoking in 2010 compared to 21% in 1998

Minister for Health Dr James Reilly at yesterday’s launch of the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Ireland Trends Report 1998-2010 which was carried out by the Health Promotion Research Centre in NUI Galway. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Minister for Health Dr James Reilly at yesterday’s launch of the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Ireland Trends Report 1998-2010 which was carried out by the Health Promotion Research Centre in NUI Galway. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Mon, Sep 23, 2013, 22:31


The number of Irish teenagers and pre-teens who smoke has fallen significantly, according to a series of studies on the health behaviours of 10 to 17-year-olds.

A report published yesterday on the four Health Behaviour in Schoolaged Children Ireland studies carried out between 1998 and 2010 showed a downward trend in the number of 10 to17-year-olds who smoke.

The report shows 12 per cent of this age group reported they were “current smokers” in 2010 compared to 21 per cent of teens and pre-teens who reported smoking in 1998.

The latest of the four studies which was conducted in 2010 showed that there was no difference between smoking rates between boys and girls.

The percentage of children who reported having their first cigarette at age 13 or younger has also dropped from 61 per cent in 2002 to 49 per cent in 2010.

Drunkenness among children also fell slightly in the same time period.

While 29.3 per cent of 10 to17-year olds reported having ever been drunk in 1998, that figure fell to 28.3 per cent in 2010.


Risk factors
However, Dr John Devlin, deputy chief medical officer at the Department of Health said despite positive progress as regards some key risk factors the study revealed some “major problems”.

He described the 12 per cent of 10 to 17-year-olds who reported that they smoked as “unacceptable” adding: “We are working towards 0 per cent and over the next couple of weeks we will have a tobacco policy which is going to set out exactly how we are going to do that”.

“In terms of alcohol despite the fact that the trends again are actually going in the right direction the fact that one in five (10 to 17-year-olds) are getting drunk . . . is still a major problem.”

Dr Devlin also said it was “disappointing” that the number of young people who reported exercising four or more times a week had fallen in the 12-year-period covered by the surveys.


Exercising low
While 53.5 per cent of 10 to 17 year olds reported exercising four or more times a week in 1998 that figure fell to 50.5 per cent in 2010.

At the publication of the report yesterday Minister for Health James Reilly said it provided grounds for optimism but also pointed to areas where there was room for improvement.

“We need to focus more on prevention and nowhere more is there a clear example of having to achieve this than in the area of tobacco,” said the Minister.

“If we can prevent the next generation of children taking up smoking the use of tobacco in Ireland will disappear,” he added.

The report also showed a downward trend in the numbers of children who reported using cannabis. In the 1998 study 10.3 per cent of 10 to 17-year-olds said they had used cannabis in the 12 months preceding the study compared to 8.3 per cent in 2010.

The Health Behaviour in Schoolaged Children Ireland studies are a cross-national research study funded by the Department of Health.

To date 39,915 school children have contributed to the Irish studies.