Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Smoking trends among adolescents from 1990 to 2002 in ten European countries and Canada

Anne Hublet1*, Dirk De Bacquer1, Raili Valimaa2, Emmanuelle Godeau3, Holger Schmid4, Giora Rahav5 and Lea Maes1

Author Affiliations

1 Ghent University, Department of Public Health, De Pintelaan 185, 9000 Ghent, Belgium

2 University of Jyväskylä, Department of Health Sciences, Research Center for Health Promotion, PO Box 35, 40014 Jyväskylä, Finland

3 Service Médical du Rectorat de Toulouse, Inserm U558, Association pour le développement d'HBSC, 12 rue Mondran, 31400 Toulouse, France

4 Swiss Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Drug problems, Avenue Ruchonnet 14, 1003 Lausanne, Switzerland

5 Tel Aviv University, Department of Sociology, School of Social Work, PO Box 39040, 69978 Tel Aviv, Israel

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BMC Public Health 2006, 6:280  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-6-280

Published: 10 November 2006



Daily smoking adolescents are a public health problem as they are more likely to become adult smokers and to develop smoking-related health problems later on in their lives.


The study is part of the four-yearly, cross-national Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study, a school-based survey on a nationally representative sample using a standardised methodology. Data of 4 survey periods are available (1990–2002). Gender-specific daily smoking trends among 14–15 year olds are examined using logistic regressions. Sex ratios are calculated for each survey period and country. Interaction effects between period and gender are examined.


Daily smoking prevalence in boys in 2002 ranges from 5.5% in Sweden to 20.0% in Latvia. Among girls, the daily smoking prevalence in 2002 ranges from 8.9% in Poland to 24.7% in Austria. Three daily smoking trend groups are identified: countries with a declining or stagnating trend, countries with an increasing trend followed by a decreasing trend, and countries with an increasing trend. These trend groups show a geographical pattern, but are not linked to smoking prevalence. Over the 4 surveys, the sex ratio has changed in Belgium, Switzerland, and Latvia.


Among adolescents in Europe, three groups of countries in a different stage of the smoking epidemic curve can be identified, with girls being in an earlier stage than boys. In 2002, large differences in smoking prevalence between the countries have been observed. This predicts a high mortality due to smoking over 20–30 years for some countries, if no policy interventions are taken.