About 12% of 15-year-olds in the industrialized nations smoke cigarettes every day, according to new information from more than 20 countries. The heaviest smokers at age 15 are in Finland, where a quarter of boys and nearly as many girls are regular daily smokers.
The new statistics also show a rise in the numbers of girls who smoke cigarettes. Among 15-year-olds, more girls now smoke than boys in Canada, Denmark, Germany, Scotland, Spain, and Sweden.
"Most people know that tobacco is hazardous," says Neil Collishaw of the WHO programme on substance abuse, "but few people appreciate how hazardous it really is. Smoking kills about half of persistent smokers who take up the habit in adolescence."
Among 15-year-old boys who now smoke cigarettes in the United States, for example, deaths from tobacco over the next 55 years will be triple the combined deaths from murder, suicide, drug abuse, alcohol, traffic accidents, and AIDS.
Most of the data given below come from a survey conducted in 1993 and 1994 as part of a continuing effort to monitor patterns of health behaviour among young people in industrialized nations. In total, over 100,000 young people completed the anonymous questionnaires. The survey results will be published in full later this year.
Photo: Most people know smoking is dangerous - but few know how dangerous. Half of those who take up the habit in adolescence will die from it.©
% of teenagers aged 15 who smoke every day, 1993-1994
% of boys
% of girls
male and female
* Percentage of males and females aged 12 to 17 years who are current smokers of cigarettes (current smokers have smoked at least 100 cigarettes and now smoke; includes occasional smokers). Source: US Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, Statistical Abstract of the United States, 114th Edition, 1995. Data for 1992.
SOURCE 1993-1994 survey on health behaviours in school-aged children, WHO Europe, unpublished data.