For the first time in 25 years, teenage smoking rates in Ireland are on the rise, according to a study published in Open research ERJ.
The study also shows that teen vaping rates have increased over the past four years and that teens who use e-cigarettes are more likely to smoke.
The researchers say their findings indicate Ireland will not meet its targets for reducing smoking rates and they add to the evidence that vaping could promote a new generation of young nicotine addicts.
The study was led by Professor Luke Clancy, Managing Director of the TobaccoFree Research Institute Ireland, based in Dublin. He said: âTeenage smoking rates have declined in Ireland, as in many other countries in Europe and the US On the other hand, the use of electronic cigarettes is increasing around the world.
“The dangers of smoking are well known. We are still learning about the effects of e-cigarettes, but we know that the nicotine they contain can cause brain damage in adolescents. There are also concerns that they may lead to an increase. smoking. “
Researchers looked at data on Irish adolescents from the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD), a survey of around 100,000 young people aged 15 to 16, conducted every four years in 35 European countries. There were 1,493 Irish adolescents involved in the 2015 survey and 1,949 adolescents in the 2019 survey.
The results of the 2019 survey showed that 16.2% of boys were smokers, up from 13.1% in 2015, while in 2019, 12.8% of girls smoked against 12.8% in 2015.
In 2015, 23% of teens said they had ever used e-cigarettes, and this figure rose to 37% in 2019. In 2015, 10.1% said they were currently using e-cigarettes, and this figure has risen. at 18.1% in 2019.
The data also showed that teens who reported using e-cigarettes at some point or currently using them were also 50% more likely to smoke.
In Ireland, the government has set a target of making the country “tobacco-free” by 2025, which means the smoking rate is expected to be less than 5%. Our previous research suggested that this goal may not be met for the general population, but so far we thought it might be met in adolescents. It now seems highly unlikely, which means that smoking and all the death and disability associated with it will continue. “
Professor Luke Clancy, Managing Director, TobaccoFree Research Institute Ireland
Ireland was the only country to include e-cigarette questions in the 2015 ESPAD survey, providing a unique opportunity to monitor the trend in e-cigarette use and its effect on smoking rates among children. teenagers.
Jonathan Grigg, who was not involved in the research, is Chairman of the European Respiratory Society’s Tobacco Control Committee and Professor of Pediatric Respiratory and Environmental Medicine at Queen Mary University in London, UK. He said: “Any increase in the smoking rate among adolescents is of great concern as we know that cigarettes harm children and young people. The increase in the use of electronic cigarettes is also of concern. Teens should know that cigarettes are harmful to children and young people. Electronic cigarettes are not harmless in themselves, and this study indicates that the use of electronic cigarettes is also linked to smoking.
âGovernments around the world need to take note of the increase in the use of e-cigarettes and how they are being promoted to protect teens from nicotine addiction. “
Professor Clancy and his colleagues will continue their research into smoking and vaping among Irish adolescents. He adds: âWe hope to draw attention to the political needs to protect young people from continued tobacco use and the role that electronic cigarettes can play. We plan to do more research on the links between smoking and vaping, particularly to examine the role of social media and how companies use these platforms to promote nicotine products. “
Sundays., et al. (2021) Increase in smoking and e-cigarette use among Irish adolescents: a new threat to tobacco-free Ireland 2025. Open research ERJ. doi.org/10.1183/23120541.00438-2021.