Irish smoking rates falling fastest in EU, says survey

Just 21% of people in Ireland smoke, the fourth lowest rate in the union

 While tobacco use is declining across Europe, it has fallen four times faster than average in Ireland, from 29 per cent to 21 per cent since 2012.  File photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

While tobacco use is declining across Europe, it has fallen four times faster than average in Ireland, from 29 per cent to 21 per cent since 2012. File photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

 

Smoking rates are falling faster in Ireland than in any other EU country, according to a new European survey on attitudes to tobacco.

Ireland now has the fourth lowest rate of smoking in the EU, according to the data released by the European Commission in advance of World No Tobacco Day on Sunday.

While tobacco use is declining across Europe, it has fallen four times faster than average in Ireland since 2012. Irish smoking rates declined from 29 per cent in 2012 to 21 per cent last year, the Eurobarometer survey shows.

The lowest rates are in Sweden, at 11 per cent, and Finland, at 19 per cent.

The survey shows the remaining Irish smokers are consuming fewer cigarettes, down to an average of almost 14 a day from 16 in 2012.

Passive smoking

Levels of passive smoking are also falling. Just 5 per cent of Irish people said they had experienced others smoking inside in a bar in the previous six months, the second lowest figure in Europe. This compares with more than 80 per cent in the Czech Republic or Romania.

Similarly, only 4 per cent of Irish people had experienced smoking in an eating establishment, lower than anywhere else apart from the Scandinavian countries.

Thirteen per cent of Irish people said they had been exposed to tobacco smoke in the workplace in the previous six months, down two percentage points.

More than one in 10 Europeans have tried ecigarettes, but in Ireland just 3 per cent currently use them. Another 3 per cent used them in the past and 6 per cent say they tried them at some stage in the past.

Ireland has the largest proportion of respondents who have been successful in stopping smoking tobacco completely with the help of ecigarettes (24 per cent). However, 36 per cent said they actually increased their tobacco smoking.

Plain packaging

In a finding that bears upon the Government’s plans to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products, only 14 per cent of smokers here say packaging is important in determining what brand they use.

The survey finds 80 per cent support in Ireland for banning tobacco advertising in shops and at points of sale and 74 per cent support for plain packaging.

Some 68 per cent of Irish smokers have attempted to stop smoking at some stage, according to the survey.

Overall the survey shows that tobacco consumption continues to decline (a decrease of two percentage points since 2012), but tobacco products are still consumed by about a quarter of Europeans.

Among young people, tobacco products are consumed by more than a quarter of those aged 18-24, and one in 10 of those aged 15-17.

Young people have also tried ecigarettes more often, and one third of 18-24-year-olds have also tried water pipes.

However, the proportion of young smokers has declined by four percentage points since 2012.