The first cigarette comes around the age of 10 and then one rolls the other until smoking becomes a habit for one in five boys between the ages of 13 and 15. The only way to betray cigarettes is by electronic cigarettes, chosen by 18% of the very young. These are some of the Italian data collected in the framework of the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (Gyts), a survey involving 180 countries on the use of tobacco among young people, promoted by the Regional Office for Europe of the World Health Organization and held every 4 years. We talked about it with Dr. Giulia Veronesi, thoracic surgeon at Humanitas.
Cigarettes among young people: an upward trend
The survey was carried out in the 2017-2018 school year and presented in a workshop organized by the Ministry of Health. The survey involved 33 primary and 33 secondary schools, for a total of almost 1,700 students. It should be noted that the contact with cigarettes always happens In Italy, girls are habitual smokers of traditional cigarettes in 24% of cases compared to 16% of male peers, while as far as electronic cigarettes are concerned, boys habitually use them more (22% compared to 13%). The data also show that in just 4 years the spread of e-cig is now comparable to that of traditional cigarettes: regular smokers have more than doubled (now at 18%) while occasional consumers have increased by 60% (now at 44%). As for the idea of quitting, there is a high perception among children that they can quit cigarettes whenever they want (81%), but just over half of them have actually tried to quit in the last 12 months and only 1 in 2 have received help to do so.
Smoking, stimuli and easy access
The easy access to the purchase of cigarettes in tobacconists’ shops is also a cause for concern, despite the tightening of the legislation, which provides for the withdrawal of the operator’s license in the case of sales to minors: 20% of the children report buying cigarettes in tobacconists’ shops and as many as 68% of them say that no one refused to sell them because of their age. As for the e-cig, 8 out of 10 boys get it from a friend. Among those who try to buy from a retailer, 76% did not receive a refusal to sell because they were under the age of 18, which is also the case for e-cigs. These are very worrying data, which are the consequence of the total inattention that there is to the evolutionary age, especially in an institution, the school, which must be a place of training of young people. One out of two young people reported being exposed to passive smoking at home and not perceiving school as a closed place for cigarettes. Despite the legislation, in fact, the values of non-compliance with the smoking ban are still too high, but the percentage of school teachers smoking within the school is reduced from 44% in 2010 to 14% in 2018, as well as that of students, which falls from 56% in 2010 to 29% in 2018. On the cause that pushes young people to light their first cigarette and continue, according to some scholars, it is loneliness that plays a decisive role and solitude that needs a consolatory filler. The spread of electronic cigarettes should not be underestimated either; the fashion effect certainly plays a role and these are masked cigarettes, which are just as harmful as traditional cigarettes.