Czechs rank among worst when it comes to number of teens lighting up

A survey just released by the OECD has ranked the Czech Republic among the very worst when it comes to the number of its youth who smoke. According to the survey, some 23 percent of 15-year-old girls in the country smoke on a regular basis, while the same is true for 20 percent of boys. That said, some observers have argued the situation might not be quite as bad as it seems – stressing that in the longer term the number of minors lighting up has actually gone down.

Teens lighting up on their way to school or a stone’s throw from the schoolyard: according to reports are all too common a problem in the Czech Republic. An OECD survey just released on the subject ranked the country poorly indeed: second only to neighbouring Austria when it comes to 15-year-old girls who smoke. Regarding boys the same age? Not much better: the country ranked fourth, behind Austria, Finland and Hungary. Dr Hana Sovinová, of the State Health Institute, agrees the numbers are sobering, especially when compared to countries at the bottom of the list including the United States. But she also stresses there are reasons to believe the situation may have since improved. For one, the data referenced in the survey go back to 2005/2006.

“The numbers are accurate reflecting our own data from 2005 and 2006, showing that the Czech Republic, together with other Central European countries, ranked fairly high in the number of teen smokers. We have conducted studies on a four-year-basis since 1994 and found that while the number of young smokers rose steadily until 2002 (they peaked at around 30 percent of 15 year-old boys and girls) and have since gone down. We have reason to hope that that this trend has continued.”

The reasons why are several, including the higher cost of tobacco products and more. Dr Hana Sovinová again:

“We believe factors which have contributed to a drop in the number of young smokers include a partial ban on tobacco-product advertising and the raising of the legal age to 18. Other steps have also had an effect: a ban, for example, on ‘kusovky’ - cigarettes sold individually out of the box. Also, we think it’s somewhat less fashionable for youth to smoke now than it was in the Czech Republic in the 1990s. Slowly but surely there are new trends in wellness and healthy living, and many teens are beginning to realise there are other ways to live.”

A continued drop in the high number of teen smokers in the country will still have to be confirmed. Until then the Czech Republic, like some of its neighbours, obviously has a problem on its hands, one that specialists say will require renewed efforts and education.