Irish are youngest smokers in EU on No Tobacco Day


IRISH SMOKERS and ex-smokers took up the habit at a younger age than their counterparts in any other country in the EU and despite the introduction of many restrictions and price increases in the Republic over the last decade, people here continue to smoke more than most Europeans, a major new study has revealed.

The Eurobarometer survey of Europe’s relationship with tobacco shows that the average age at which Irish smokers took their first puff was 16.4, compared with an EU average of 17.6.

It also reports that nearly one in three Irish adults still smokes and those who do so smoke slightly more than the EU average.

Published to coincide with World No Tobacco Day today, the survey found that 29 per cent of adults here still smoke, compared with an EU average of 28 per cent, while the average Irish smoker gets through 15.7 cigarettes a day compared with an EU average of 14.2.

The ambivalence Irish people have toward tobacco is exposed by the study, which finds that although Irish people are more likely to smoke, they are also far more likely to back measures aimed at curbing the habit.

According to the poll, 60 per cent of people across the EU are in favour of measures which will make tobacco less visible and less attractive. When Irish people were asked, the percentage climbed significantly, with more than 80 per cent backing bans on advertising tobacco in shops, restricting online sales and stripping boxes of colours, logos and other eye-catching promotional elements.

Just over half of Irish people have never smoked, while two-thirds of current smokers here have tried to quit at least once, with 33 per cent saying they had tried and failed to give up in the past year.

A similar number of smokers and ex-smokers across the EU say health warnings on tobacco packs had an impact on their attitudes and behaviour towards smoking. Irish respondents, along with Slovaks, were the most likely to say that health warnings on tobacco packs have or had an impact on their attitudes and behaviour towards smoking.

“I am deeply concerned about the fact that most Europeans start smoking in their early youth, before their 18th birthday,” said health and consumer policy commissioner John Dalli. He said he was committed to ensuring that Europe “lives up to its international commitments on regulating tobacco products, including reducing cigarettes’ appeal to young people”.