WHO Report: A focus on adolescent substance use in Europe, Central Asia and Canada

Tuesday, 30 April 2024

E-cigarettes are now used more than cigarettes among 15-year-olds in Europe, according to the latest WHO Europe report, “A focus on adolescent substance use in Europe, Central Asia and Canada”. Based on the 2021/2022 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey, the report examines substance use among 15-year-olds. 

While 13% of 15-year-olds reported having smoked cigarettes, more than one in six (18%) reported having used an e-cigarette, with a peak of almost 60% in Lithuania. The reasons behind this trend are to be found in the exposure to online environments where the industry promotes e-cigarettes through targeted advertising.

Making sure that adolescents do not pick up unhealthy habits is crucial not only for their health but also to avoid “poorer academic outcomes, violence and injury, accidents, and negative influences on cognitive, emotional and social development”. The consequences of addiction to these toxic products are costly for them and society at large.

The report indicates six policy initiatives that countries can implement to reduce the demand for tobacco. These can be summarised with the acronym MPOWER:
Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies;
Protect people from tobacco smoke;
Offer help to quit tobacco use;
Warn about the dangers of tobacco;
Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship;
Raise taxes on tobacco.

As a Dutch boy interviewed puts it: “I think the biggest underestimated health problem for young people right now is addiction to e-cigarettes. I think that besides banning the sale of vapes, the Government can also better educate children at an early age in schools about this type of product and its addictive potential”.

Access the full report below: 

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