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Report On The Global Youth Tobacco Survey Data

Report On The Global Youth Tobacco Survey Data

A report, due to be released at the New Zealand Smoke-free Conference being held in Wellington on 13/14 September, found that young New Zealanders experiment with tobacco at an early age and are often exposed to secondhand smoke at home.

The New Zealand Youth Lifestyle Study is a two-yearly study of secondary school students’ beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours towards tobacco. Eighty-two schools and 3,434 students participated in the 2002 Youth Lifestyle Study, said Andrew Waa of the Health Sponsorship Council. The study was completed by students in Years 10 and 12.

“Questions in the Youth Lifestyle Study allow us to compare students from NZ with students from over 150 other countries” says Mr Waa. For example, students were asked if they had ever tried smoking, over two thirds of students had. “The number of young New Zealanders who have ever tried smoking is comparable to rates from the United States, but is considerably higher than that reported in some other countries.”

Data from the study were analyzed by researchers from the Social and Behavioural Research in Cancer Group at the University of Otago. Helen Darling, who is analyzing the data as part of her PhD studies, said that there were concerns about the young age at which New Zealanders were experimenting with tobacco. Around 7% of boys and 6% of girls surveyed had tried smoking by age 7 years. “It would be timely to review tobacco prevention efforts to include younger children” says Ms Darling. “Currently prevention is focused on older primary school children and children at intermediate and secondary school level, many of whom have already experimented with tobacco.”

Dr Reeder, a supervisor of Ms Darling’s PhD and a co-author of the report said that researchers were also concerned about the large proportion of students exposed to secondhand smoke in the home. Overall, 14% of the non-smokers and 40% of the daily smokers were exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke in the home on all 7 days preceding the survey. Dr Reeder said that it was appropriate that recent health promotion has centred on reducing exposure to secondhand smoke and educating the public of the dangers. “Those dangers include a greater likelihood that exposed youth would become smokers themselves”, Dr Reeder said.

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