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Friday, January 22, 1999 Published at 12:20 GMT

Smoking study probes government policies

Government policy may influence smoking rates

The relationship between national tobacco policy and smoking among adolescents is to be studied in eight European countries.

The three-year project will compare the government tobacco control policies of each country, and look at the impact of these policies on secondary schools and teenage smoking behaviour.

A key question will be whether, and how, government tobacco policy affects the school environment, and whether the school environment, in turn, has any impact on teenagers' decisions to take up or give up smoking.

Approximately 2,000 15-year-old secondary school pupils and 200 teachers from each country will be surveyed.

Questions will focus on topics related to school smoking policies and actual smoking practices.

The Research Unit in Health and Behavioural Change (RUHBC) at the University of Edinburgh will spearhead the study.

Direct influence

[ image: Many young smokers want to quit]
Many young smokers want to quit
Project administrator Dawn Griesbach said: "Policies may directly influence such areas as government-funded health promotion programmes and health education curricula in schools.

"Some countries have very strict anti-smoking laws, whereas others, like Scotland, have a number of voluntary agreements between the government and the tobacco industry.

"It is hoped that this project will show whether and how government policy has any effect on the prevalence of smoking among teenagers, and how national tobacco initiatives can most effectively intervene to prevent children from taking up the habit."

The countries taking part in the study are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Finland, Norway, Wales and Scotland.

In the last survey of Scottish teenagers in 1994, one third of all 15-year-olds claimed that they smoked.

Wendy Ugolini, of Action on Smoking and Health in Scotland, said 60% of calls to the group's quitline were from children aged under 16.

"At the moment there is a huge gap in knowledge on the effect on children of different kinds of smoking policy," she said.

"We need to have more information and research on what would be effective ways to support young people."

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