“Alarming” consumption of alcohol and e-cigarettes among adolescents, says WHO

The consumption of alcohol and electronic cigarettes among 11-15 year old is “alarming”, according to a report from the European branch of the WHO which recommends public health measures to limit access to alcoholic beverages.

“The widespread use of harmful substances among children in many countries in the European region – and beyond – poses a serious threat to public health,” warned the regional director of the World Health Organization (WHO ) Hans Kluge, quoted in a press release.

In particular, he calls for increasing taxes, limiting points of sale and advertising and banning flavoring agents to counter this trend.

After years of decline in the use of psychoactive substances, “some data suggests that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a further increase in consumption”, notes the report, which brings together data from 280,000 young people in Europe, Asia Central and Canada.

Containment measures have indeed changed the habits of 11-15 year old. They have been more present online and exposed to digital advertisements.

This development could leave its mark.

Costly consequences

“Adopting risky behaviors during adolescence can influence behavior in adulthood, with the use of psychoactive substances at an early age being linked to a higher risk of addiction,” he insisted. “The consequences are costly for them and for society.”

The use of e-cigarettes has increased, according to the report, worldwide and this trend is particularly marked among adolescents.

Good news however, smoking is decreasing: 13% of 11-15 year old have already smoked in 2022, two points less than four years ago. However, many have adopted electronic cigarettes.

Some 32% of 15-year-olds have already smoked it and 20% in the last 30 days.

Carried out every four years under the aegis of the WHO Europe office, which brings together 53 countries and extends to Central Asia, the international HBSC (Health behavior in school-aged children) survey makes it possible to describe health behaviors of 11, 13 and 15 year old students. It has different sections including this one, dedicated to the use of psychoactive substances.

Alcohol is the substance most frequently consumed by adolescents. 57% of 15-year-olds have drunk it at least once and nearly four in ten have consumed it in the last 30 days.

In addition, around one in ten adolescents (9%) have been heavily drunk in their lifetime. Some 5% were from the age of 13 and 20% among those aged 15.

“This demonstrates a trend of escalation in alcohol abuse among young people,” lamented WHO Europe in a press release.

“These results highlight the extent to which alcohol is available and normalized and show that there is an urgent need for better policy measures to protect children and young people from (its) harms,” insisted the organization.

Another source of concern is that young girls are drinking more than before. 40% of 15-year-old girls said they had drunk at least once in the last 30 days, compared to 38% four years ago, while among boys the trend is the opposite.

Cannabis consumption is in slight decline: the percentage of 15-year-olds having already used it has fallen by four points in as many years, falling to 12%.








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