One in 10 pupils a ‘regular smoker’

As a state crackdown on smoking in public places intensifies, a joint survey by the Education and Health ministries has indicated that smoking among school-age children is a growing problem, with one in 10 secondary school pupils admitting to smoking regularly while the majority claim to have had their first cigarette before the age of 13.

The survey, which questioned 28,088 pupils from middle and senior high schools across the country, found that 26 percent of the students had smoked at least once. It also found that that 10 percent of all secondary school students – some 22,000 children – smoke regularly. Most said they smoked for the first time before the age of 13 while nearly two out of 10 said they had their first puff on a cigarette before the age of 10.

The survey also sought to determine the possible influence of parents on the children’s smoking habits and discovered that more than 60 percent of respondents said either one or both of their parents smoked.

Meanwhile seven out of 10 among the respondents questioned said they had suffered breathing problems due to excessive smoke in a bar or club at least once, while the overwhelming majority (94.4 percent) said they believed that obliging nonsmokers to breathe the fumes from smokers in closed public spaces was unfair.

In recent weeks, state inspectors have started implementing a ban on smoking in restaurants, cafes and other enclosed public places that was implemented in September 2010 but was hardly enforced.

Education Minister Constantinos Arvanitopoulos on Wednesday called on parents and teachers to avoid smoking in front of children and being “negative role models.”