The Irish Cancer Society has welcomed the latest research that shows only eight per cent of young people aged between 10 and 17 smoke, and says that these statistics show Ireland can become tobacco-free.
The Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children (HBSC ) Research launched by Minister for Health Leo Varadkar marks a significant drop in the number of young people taking up the habit and continues a trend that has seen the smoking rate drop from 21.2 per cent in 1998.
Kathleen O’Meara, head of advocacy and communications, said: “Children are now being turned off smoking. This continuing downward trend is the result of hard work on the part of Government and health services to discourage children and teenagers to take up something that kills 5,200 adults every year in Ireland.”
This is the fifth edition of the HBSC report in Ireland, with each one recording a steady decline in the rate of smoking in 10 to 17-year-olds. Numbers have fallen from 21.2 per cent in 1998 to 11.9 per cent in 2010 and 8 per cent in 2014.
“The Irish Cancer Society too has worked with young people through our X-HALE project which has seen the society invest €130,000 in youth groups over the last five years,” says Ms O’Meara. “The project empowers young people to become role models in their communities and help prevent other young people from starting to smoke. In 2015 we had over 300 people from 41 youth groups across Ireland take part in X-HALE. We believe this has contributed to the fall we see today.
“These young people will greatly reduce their risk of cancer with 90 per cent of lung cancers related to tobacco.” The Department of Health has committed to a tobacco-free Ireland by 2025, which means an overall smoking rate of less than 5 per cent.
“We’re less than 10 years away from this target,” says Ms O’Meara. “Although it is ambitious, the figures released show that, with the right commitment from Government, it can be achieved.”
For more information on the Irish Cancer Society’s X-HALE project visit www.cancer.ie/prevention/X-HALE The HSE Quit Team can be reached by calling 1800 201 203. Smokers are encouraged to call for information, advice, support, and a quit booklet. Information and support is also available through www.quit.ie