High rate of e-cigarette use among teenagers a concern

By June Shannon Policy News   |   9th Jan 2020

Irish Heart Foundation and Irish Cancer Society call for prompt action to reduce youth e-cigarette use

A new study has found that more than one in five children aged between 12 and 17 years of age have tried e-cigarettes, double the number that have tried tobacco, moving the Irish Heart Foundation and the Irish Cancer Society to call on the Government and all political parties to prioritise actions to stop teenagers becoming addicted to harmful e-cigarettes.

The findings are contained in the Health Behaviours in School Children (HBSC) study 2018 which was launched today (Thursday 9 January ), by the Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD, and Minister for Health Promotion, Catherine Byrne TD.

This is an international study and the Irish part was commissioned by Department of Health and carried out by the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway.

The HBSC report found that more than one in five (22%) 12 to 17-year olds have tried e-cigarettes, with use higher among boys (26%) than girls (18%). By contrast, 11 per cent of 12 to 17-year olds had smoked tobacco.

Commenting Tim Collins, Chief Executive of the Irish Heart Foundation said, “While it’s clear that Ireland has made great progress in reducing the number of current smokers aged between 10 and 17 to 5 per cent, we need to combat the insidious attempts to recruit a new generation of nicotine addicts. Using flavours like bubble-gum, cotton candy and mango nectar serve only one purpose, and that is getting children hooked.”

" We need to combat the insidious attempts to recruit a new generation of nicotine addicts."

Tim Collins, CEO, Irish Heart Foundation

Averil Power, Chief Executive of the Irish Cancer Society said, “Thanks to strong public health campaigns, huge progress has been made in reducing the number of Irish children smoking tobacco in recent years. Young people increasingly consider smoking to be disgusting and understand how bad it is for their health. However, faced with falling sales, cigarette companies have responded by using sweet flavours and clever packaging to get them addicted to vaping instead. Unless Government acts now, by restricting e-cigarette sales, flavouring and advertising we will end up with a whole new generation of young people addicted to nicotine.”

The Irish Heart Foundation and the Irish Cancer Society recently undertook focus group research among third and fourth year students which showed that they did not believe that sweet e-cigarette flavours were designed for adults only. Instead, they considered such flavours to be strongly associated with snacks, treats and sweets that appeal to young people.

" The numbers of teenagers trying e-cigarettes and vaping products is a cause for concern,"

Minister Simon Harris, TD, Minister for Health

Launching the HBSC 2018 report today, the Minister for Health Simon Harris TD said, “the numbers of teenagers trying e-cigarettes and vaping products is a cause for concern and will be addressed by measures I will introduce in 2020, including new legislation to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to children under the age of 18.”

The HBSC 2018 study of 15,500 children from 255 primary and post-primary schools in Ireland also revealed that 23 per cent of children reported consuming fruit more than once a day and 21 per cent ate vegetables more than once a day.

There was also a 6 per cent reduction (27% to 21%) in the number of children eating sweets once a day or more and a similar 6 per cent drop in the (13% to 7%) in the number drinking soft drinks daily or more.

For information on the Irish Heart Foundation’s Healthy Schools programme please see here 

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