Irish Smokers amongst youngest in Europe to start habit

Irish teens begin smoking earlier that their European peers– taking their first puff when they are just 16.

A new Euro-barometer on attitudes towards tobacco showed the European average age for starting smoking is 17-and-a-half years.

Smoking is also a little more common in Ireland than the EU as a whole, with 29pc of the population here lighting up.

This compares to an EU average of 28pc, although it is as low as 13pc in Sweden, the results released to mark World No Tobacco Day today revealed.

Other finding show:

• Irish smokers smoke 15.7 cigarettes every day, down 0.3 on the previous survey in 2009. The EU average is 14.2.

• Just over half of Irish people have never smoked, in keeping with the rest of Europe.

• Irish people, along with Slovakians, are the most likely to say that health warnings on tobacco packs have or had an impact on their behaviour towards smoking.

• Up to 66pc of Irish smokers (61pc across Europe) have tried to quit, including 33pc in the past year.

“Irish people are particularly in favour of such measures and are the most likely in the EU to support the banning of advertising of tobacco products in shops (84pc) and banning sales of tobacco products via the internet (83pc),” said the survey.

Up to 88pc also support keeping tobacco products out of sight in shops while 81pc are in favour of banning colours and logos from packets of tobacco.

European health commissioner John Dalli said: “I am deeply concerned about the fact that most Europeans start smoking in their early youth.

“I am committed to ensuring that Europe lives up to its international commitments on regulating tobacco products, including reducing cigarettes’ appeal to young people.”

Ipsos MRBI surveyed 1,008 people across Ireland. – Eilish O’Regan Health Correspondent