Smoking rates are dropping in Belgium, but are still “enormously high”, health care expert Dr. Anne Boucquiau stressed on Monday, on the sidelines of the presentation of the Générations sans tabac (Generations without Tobacco) movement. According to a 2013 health survey by the Public Health Institute , 23% of Belgians aged 15 and above are cigarette smokers. “It’s a positive trend, but 23% countrywide is still enormously high, especially when we know what that implies” said Dr. Boucquiau. “Studies have shown that the average smoker loses eight years of life. At the same time, there is also a loss of healthy years of life. It is estimated that smokers spend an average of six years of life with disabilities or chronic illnesses linked to tobacco consumption.”
The Fondation contre le cancer, which initiated the new Générations sans Tabac Project with the Flemish association Kom op tegen Kanker, polled 3,500 persons, many of them smokers. An overwhelming majority (95%) said they wanted children to grow up in an environment “without tobacco” where they are not exposed to passive smoking and do not see adults smoke, which would reduce the risk of their smoking later.
About 92% of respondents felt smoking should be prohibited in cars in which minors are also travelling, for example.
In November last, the Walloon Government passed a bill introducing a ban to that effect. More recently, the Flemish Government followed suit with a provision that anyone caught smoking in a vehicle in the presence of a child less than 16 years old would receive a fine.
For Générations sans tabac, “all collectivities are concerned” and can take up the fight, whether the authorities or citizens, Dr. Boucquiau stressed.