Teenage girls’ uptake of smoking showing a disturbing trend

Released 31/05/2019

Despite smoking levels declining among secondary students in the ACT, it’s girls in the 16-17 year-old bracket who are bucking the positive trends.

On World No Tobacco Day, Acting Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerryn Coleman said the battle to steer teenagers away from smoking is not over and the worrying statistics for teenage girls should raise alarm bells.

“According to the latest ACT Health Focus On Report - Tobacco use: secondary students, the difference in ever smoking between boys and girls aged 16-17 years of age in the ACT is stark – 23% for boys compared to 35% for girls,” Dr Coleman said.

“On the question of having smoked in the last year, last month and last week, older girls consistently reported higher levels of smoking than older boys across all of those categories.

“The 2017 data for all secondary students surveyed also showed that 10% of girls had ever used roll your own tobacco compared to 6% of boys. This data suggests that anti-tobacco initiatives need to be ramped up to target girls in particular.

“Another major concern is the insidious marketing of e-cigarettes, which are currently not regulated under federal tobacco advertising and plain packaging legislation.

“The horse has bolted on these products touted as ‘nicotine-free’. In fact, many of these e-products contain unlabelled nicotine.

“What’s really disturbing is how these products are clearly targeting young people with packaging that’s attractive to the teenage market in particular.

“These products are advertised as enticing with promotions such as berry, candy cream and blueberry lemonade fruit pop flavours,” she said.

“However, there is good news because there have been significant decreases in the prevalence of smoking in ACT teenagers 12-17 years over time. This is most obvious in the ever smoked category for all age groups, which dropped from 56% in 1996 to 14% in 2017. ACT data for this indicator also compared favourably with the national estimate of 18%.

“This says that the vast majority of our young people are turning away from tobacco and are hearing the message that smoking can kill,” Dr Coleman said

* Focus On report data is based on the Cancer Council Australian Secondary Students’ Alcohol and Drug survey for the ACT.

A factsheet on the health impacts of e-cigarettes for children, young people and adults is available at https://www.health.act.gov.au/about-our-health-system/population-health/smoke-free-environments/electronic-cigarettes

- Statement ends -

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