Today, (Friday, 31st May) is World No Tobacco Day and the HSE is highlighting the continuing threat smoking causes to children and the important role we all have to play in encouraging children and young people not to smoke.
The number of children and young people who smoke in Ireland has decreased significantly in recent years in line with the rest of the population from 23% in 1998 to 8% in 2014. This is a 65.2% relative reduction. While this is a welcome trend, it still means that around 1 in 10 children and young people aged 10-17 years are current smokers.
A special analysis of the 2014 Health Behaviour of School Aged Children (HBSC) Study conducted by the HSE Tobacco Research Group has found that children and young people who smoke are over three times more likely to report poor or fair health compared to those who do not smoke.
Dr Paul Kavanagh, Public Health Medicine and Advisor to the HSE Tobacco Free Ireland Programme, said that this research shows that even at an early age, children and young people who smoke are experiencing symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
“Children and young people who smoke reported a range of health complaints including irritability, difficulties sleeping, headaches, stomach aches and feeling nervous. These are well known symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
“Children and young people believe that damage to their health is a long way off in the future and expect to give up before any health damage occurs but we can see that they are already experiencing poorer health.
“People who smoke, including young people, tend to overestimate their ability to stop smoking before harm is done to their health. The sad reality is that 1 in 2 people who smoke will die from a smoking related illness.
“One of the most important things we can do to protect the future health of our children and young people is to create an Ireland that is tobacco free. They learn from what they see in the world around them. We all have a role to play in this whether as parents, educators, role models in our community, or by the example we set to young people. One of the ways we can do this is by making smoking something which is not a normal part of everyday life and limiting the exposure of young people to smoking.”
Source: Health Service Executive