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Gibraltar among EU’s worst for smoking

Gibraltar has the third highest smoking rate in the European Union, new data suggests.
An EU-wide survey published yesterday by the European Commission ahead of World No Tobacco Day found that the highest smoking rates were in Greece (37%), Bulgaria, France (both 36%) and Croatia (35%).
The Commission’s survey, which sampled 27,901 respondents from across the EU, did not mention Gibraltar specifically.
However a lifestyle survey published by the Gibraltar Health Survey in December 2016 found 35% of respondents here said they smoked, up from 29% in 2008.
The figures for younger smokers in Gibraltar were of even greater concern, with 37% of respondents in the youngest age group saying they smoked, according to the GHA data.
Taken together, the findings of the two surveys indicate that the prevalence of smoking in Gibraltar is among the highest in Europe.
Dr John Cortes, Gibraltar’s Minister for the Environment and Education with responsibility for public health, acknowledged yesterday that Gibraltar had a smoking problem.
“I’m saddened by the findings, but I’m not surprised,” he told the Chronicle.
Dr Cortes said the GSLP/Liberals had moved swiftly after coming into office to introduce a number of anti-smoking measures.
These included educational campaigns and legislation to curtail smoking in public spaces to reduce the impact of second-hand smoke.
But he said Gibraltar had lagged behind other countries on this issue, which meant the various measures had yet to have a noticeable impact on smoking rates.
“We’ve done a lot on this, but we were years behind and these things take time to have an effect,” Dr Cortes said.
The Commission survey shows that the overall smoking rate across the EU is 26%, a figure that remains unchanged since 2014, although smoking in young people had increased from 24% to 29%.
There are also important differences in consumption across the EU with persistently higher rates of smoking in Southern Europe. At 7%, Sweden has the lowest smoking rate in the EU.
Regular e-cigarette use remains stable at 2%, with 15% having tried such products at some point. With regard to attitudes to tobacco and e-cigarette control measures, the majority of those surveyed (63%) think e-cigarette use should be banned in places where there are smoking bans; and 46% are in favour of plain packaging for cigarettes.
Commenting on the EU study, Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: "The increase in youth smoking rates illustrates the urgency for Member States to enforce the provisions of the Tobacco Products Directive which forbid attractive cigarettes aimed at enticing young people: characterising flavours, small packs, 'lipstick-style' packs and misleading elements on packaging.”
“Since May this year all such products must have disappeared from the EU market.”
“I encourage all Member States to use all additional tools at their disposal to protect young people and inform the public about the dangers of using tobacco."

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