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Publications: Data Visualisations

Tobacco use

Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in the world, imposing a large burden on societies. Smoking behaviour is typically established during adolescence; most smokers had their first cigarette, or were already addicted, by the time they turned 18. The duration and number of cigarettes required to establish nicotine addiction are lower for adolescents than adults, so addiction is established more quickly.

Previous HBSC research has shown that tobacco use is related to other risk behaviours and negative health outcomes in young people, including unhealthy dieting patterns, high levels of alcohol consumption, bullying, early sexual initiation, poor self-rated health and low life satisfaction, frequent multiple health complaints and injuries. It should therefore be considered as part of a broader group of unhealthy behaviours that cluster in adolescence.

Many family factors predict tobacco use, such as divorce or separations, parental smoking and low family cohesion and connectedness. Positive relationships with parents are usually negatively associated with adolescent smoking, but peer relationships may encourage it through, for example, providing access to tobacco products and helping to create norms to support use. Peers have been suggested as agents in intervention programmes aiming to reduce tobacco use among adolescents precisely because they can have such a significant influence on behaviour.

Young people were asked how often they smoke tobacco. Response options ranged from “I do not smoke” to “every day”. The findings presented here are the proportion of 15 year olds who reported smoking at least once a week. Use the tiles at the top of the interactive data display below to explore HBSC’s European data.

Policy Reflections

European countries have launched national and international tobacco-prevention programmes in recent years to reduce smoking among young people (more info). The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control offers tools to support countries to build legislation (more info). Its main goal is to increase tobacco taxes, as this has been shown to be an effective deterrent among adolescents and adults. Smoking bans in school and restricted sale of tobacco to young people have been shown to be particularly effective. Other initiatives that can contribute to reducing smoking prevalence include:

  • smoking bans in public places

  • bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship

  • regulation of the contents of tobacco products

  • requirements on manufacturers to disclose product ingredients

  • regulation of packaging and labelling of tobacco products

  • education, communication, training and public awareness

  • measures concerning tobacco dependence and cessation

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