Number of young Flemish smokers halved in five years

Number of young Flemish smokers halved in five years
The number of smokers decreased since 2020, but is still higher than in 2019. Credit: Pexels

The number of daily smokers among Flemish youth has halved over the past five years with less, in a trend which researchers say signal a trend in young people's changing attitudes towards tobacco.

Among Flemish people aged 15 to 24, the percentage of smokers has gone down from 22% to 11.9%, according to reports of the latest survey by public health research institute Sciensano, carried out every five years.

Among those who continue smoking, the survey shows that less than 10% are daily smokers, in figures which also show a steep decline among smoking habits as only 8.3% of those surveyed said they smoked daily compared to 17% in the last survey.

"We have known for a long time that a large group of young people are turning away from the cigarette," Suzanne Gabriëls the Cancer Foundation told Het Nieuwsblad.

A central reason behind the decline is that fewer young people are picking up the habit of smoking, with the hike in prices for tobacco products acting as a likely deterrent, according to De Morgen.

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But a higher awareness of the health risks and the environmental impact of smoking also plays a role, according to some experts.

"Smoking is no longer cool, because it is unhealthy, but also because all the butts that are left behind on the street are not ecological," Gabriëls said.

Experts say that behind the apparent global shift the numbers indicated, the attitudes to cigarettes among youth vary depending on their social and economical background, leading to "enormous" disparages in terms of health.

Young people growing up in families where the parents did not go through higher education are more likely to smoke, with a quarter of those surveyed doing so, according to Het Nieuwsblad.

"So even though the aversion to cigarettes is growing globally, a lot of young people are still growing up in environments where smoking is the most normal thing in the world," Stefaan Hendrickx of Healthy Living of the Flemish Institute for Healthy Living told the outlet. "They are enormously disadvantaged in terms of health."

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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