A new study among eleven to fourteen year olds in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan has shed light on the reasons young people try smoking, with having a mother who smokes identified as a high risk factor.
The research, carried out by Cardiff Metropolitan University on behalf of Cardiff and Vale Public Health Team, involved pupils and teaching staff from thirteen local schools.
While it has long been known that smoking habits within the immediate family affect a young person’s decision to smoke, the new study indicates that mothers are a particularly important influence. Participants were three times more likely to try smoking if their mother smoked.
Socioeconomic status was also shown to play a part, with young people from areas of higher deprivation more likely to try tobacco or e-cigarettes. These findings are consistent with previous studies around smoking in children.
The findings also unveiled concerning behaviours around e-cigarettes. Evidence to date has suggested that people who had never smoked were unlikely to try ecigarettes, however this study found that young people – some as young as eleven – are experimenting with vaping, even if they have never picked up a cigarette.
The findings suggest that someone with a friend or sibling that vapes are more likely to try an e-cigarette.
These findings support the updated advice from Public Health Wales, stating that ecigarettes are likely to be harmful to children and young people. For smokers, the risks associated with e-cigarettes are believed to be significantly less than smoking tobacco and they may also help some smokers quit.
The key findings of the study are:
- The strongest single predictive factor for young people trying smoking tobacco is whether the mother smokes
- Young people who have never previously smoked tobacco were using ecigarettes
- Young people who had a friend that vaped were 16 times more likely to have tried vaping
- Young people from lower socioeconomic areas are more likely to smoke or vape
- 13-14 year olds are 4 times more likely to have smoked at least one cigarette compared to 11-12 year olds and 5 times more likely to have tried e-cigarettes
Trina Nealon, Principal Health Promotion Specialist at Cardiff and Vale Public Health Team, said: “We commissioned this research to help us better understand the causes and attitudes around smoking in young people.
“Smoking prevalence continues to decrease in Cardiff and the Vale, as well as across Wales; however the fact that children as young as eleven are experimenting with smoking remains a public health concern, as tobacco can lead to premature death and preventable long-term illnesses.
“The findings of this study will help us to take positive local action, as they will inform our efforts around smoking prevention and cessation in young people, particularly in areas of social deprivation, where it is most needed.”
Dr Tina Alwyn from Cardiff School of Health Sciences in Cardiff Metropolitan University was commissioned to manage the research study. She said: “Although the number of people who smoke in Wales has more than halved over the past 40 years, this new research study found some worrying findings.
“Identifying a number of key risk factors for smoking behaviour in young people through this study will be of huge value to us here in Wales and to future generations, as the knowledge will inform focussed educational campaigns around the serious dangers of smoking.”