Young europeans and tobacco

Date of publication: June 15, 1991

Abstract:

In June/July 1990 a sample survey using a single questionnaire was conducted simultaneously In all 12 Member States of the European Community to assess the attitudes and behaviour of the younger generation with regard to tobacco. The survey formed part of the "Europe against Cancer" Programme launched by the Community In 1987. The survey was conducted orally by professional Interviewers at the respondents' homes, parents not being present at the Interviews but having first given their consent. A total of 9 312 young people were questioned (4 778 boys and 4 534 girls), or about 800 per country (250 In the case of Luxembourg). -1 From the age of 15 onwards, approximately 15% of these young people are "regular smokers" (l.e. they smoke at least once a week). The principal aim of the survey was to Investigate the factors which had taken them from the Initiation stage to that of acquiring the smoking habit. Analysis shows that the peer group environment plays a more Important role than the family or school: having a best friend who smokes, frequenting discotheques and according Importance to the social function of smoking all contribute towards the personality make-up of the young smoker. The cigarette represents the Instrument and the symbol of a rite of passage, a means of self-affirmation and of friendly and Informal communication. These are precisely the "arguments" put forward, directly or Indirectly, by the majority of advertIsements for cigarettes. The conclusion Is that health promotion campaigns, of which the fight against smoking constitutes a major element, should fight at the same level as the advertisers by emphasising the quality of life of the non- smoker rather than the dangers of tobacco and by seeking to alter the stereotype Image of the role of smoking In personality development and In social Interaction among friends.

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