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Latest national youth smoking rates released


The proportion of Australian school students involved in smoking has taken a substantial dive according to latest figures released by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aging.

Just over 140 000 Australian school students aged 12-17 are current smokers, according to new research released today.

The study of smoking behaviors of school students has been conducted nationally every three years since 1984. The study is a collaboration between State Cancer Councils, State Health Departments and the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aging and is co-ordinated by The Cancer Council Victoria's Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer. Results released today are the findings of the most recent survey, conducted in 2005.

The 2005 study is based on data collected from 21 805 male and female students aged 12-17 years surveyed in 376 secondary schools.

The research reveals that in 2005, 7% of 12- to 15-year-old students smoked in the week before the survey, less than half the percentage reported in 1999.

The proportion of 16- and 17-year-old students smoking in the week before the survey has also dropped from 30% in 1999 to 17% in 2005.

Professor Melanie Wakefield from The Cancer Council Victoria said despite the promising fall in youth smoking rates, there was no room for complacency in tackling the issue.

"It is estimated that just over 140,000 students smoked on average over 3,450,000 cigarettes between them in the week before the survey. "

"These figures indicate that many Australian adolescents are still smoking cigarettes and that their level of consumption represents substantial revenue for the tobacco industry."

"Young smokers represent an exceedingly important market for the tobacco industry, so our efforts to starve the tobacco industry of a new generation of smokers should be a top public health priority."

Other key findings from the study released today include:

  • Around 84% of 12-year olds had no experience with smoking
  • The percentage of students who were current smokers increased from 2% among 12-year-olds to 18% among 17-year-olds.
  • The proportion of students smoking in the previous week doubled between the ages of 13 (5%) and 15 (11%)
  • The proportion of students who had smoked in the seven days prior to the survey in 2005 had decreased from the 1999 proportion by about half among the younger students (from 15% to 7%) and by around 40% among the older students (from 30% to 17%).

Executive Director of Quit, Mr Todd Harper, said the results of the study suggest that the strategy of promoting quit smoking messages through graphic advertisements that target the whole population in well funded mass media campaigns, increasing restrictions on smoking in public spaces and venues, further restricting the promotion of cigarette products and increasing the price of cigarettes has been effective at reducing smoking among Australian adolescents.

"The findings from this study suggest that the Federal government needs to invest heavily in tobacco control to ensure that another generation of Australians do not grow up addicted to a substance that if used regularly and for a long enough period, will kill at least half of them prematurely."



Edwina Vellar,
Media Manager
ph: (03) 9635 5400
mob: 0417 303 811

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