Smoking rates among Queensland secondary school students have dropped significantly over the past 12 years, new data shows.
The Australian Secondary Students’ Alcohol and Drug (ASSAD) survey shows Queensland students who had smoked a cigarette in the previous 12 months more than halved from 32 per cent in 2002 to 15 per cent in 2014.
The proportion of Queensland students surveyed who indicated they had smoked during the previous week fell from 14 per cent in 2002 to just six per cent in 2014.
Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift says the trend among young Queenslanders was extremely encouraging.
“The Queensland Government’s commitment to tobacco control over the last decade has helped young people quit smoking, preventing our next generation from taking up this lethal habit,” she says.
“There are a range of tobacco control measures that have contributed to the decline in smoking rates among secondary school students in Queensland.”
“Smoke-free spaces, quit campaigns, plain packaging, and price increases have all played a part in reducing smoking rates across the state.”
Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Cameron Dick says new tobacco laws proposed by State Government would further shift the culture of smoking among young people.
“Banning smoking at or near children’s organised sporting events, skate parks and other places where young people or families congregate will not only reduce their exposure to second-hand smoke, but also restrict their exposure to smoking as a behaviour,” he says.
“The less visible smoking is, the less our young people will deem it socially acceptable, and the more we can discourage them from trying it themselves.”
Cameron says the government’s proposed changes would also restrict tobacco sales, including banning the sale of tobacco products from pop-up retail outlets, such as at music festivals frequented by young people.
Katie says it was still concerning that six per cent of secondary school students smoked during the week prior to the survey and 15 per cent smoked at some time during the previous year.
“It’s important for teenagers to understand the dangers of smoking, and that even occasional or social smoking is harmful to their health,” she says.
“Every cigarette is doing damage, and even occasional or weekly smoking can harm others through second-hand smoke exposure.”
Of students who reported smoking in the last seven days, almost half (47 per cent) said that a friend gave them a cigarette.
Just under half (44 per cent) of all secondary school students surveyed indicated it would be easy or very easy to get someone else to buy cigarettes for them.
“It’s vital we do all we can to deter young people from this lethal habit, including actively discouraging smoking in social settings – especially in teenage years,” Katie says.
“Queenslanders who start smoking from a young age can find it hard to quit the habit when they get older.”
“It is important to remind the community that it is illegal in Queensland to sell or give cigarettes to under 18 year olds.”
Katie says the Queensland Government’s recent proposals to create more smoke-free places are a step in the right direction.
“We know the majority of smokers want to quit – and we need to do all we can to support them, including preventing young people from taking up the habit in the first place,” she says.
“If passed, these new measures will provide greater protection from second-hand smoke, encourage more smokers to quit, and importantly prevent more young people from taking up the habit.”
More than 3900 Queensland secondary students aged between 12 and 17 years participated in the Australian Secondary Students’ Alcohol and Drug (ASSAD) survey.
The survey, conducted every three years since 1984, is a collaboration between Cancer Councils, the Australian Government Department of Health and state and territory health departments.
Around 3700 Queenslanders die from a tobacco-related disease each year. About 370 of these deaths are caused by second-hand smoke exposure.
Smokers are urged to call the Quitline on 13 QUIT (13 7848) for help with quitting. For more information about Cancer Council Queensland visit www.cancerqld.org.au or call 13 11 20.