The use of tobacco products among Finnish adolescents has long been declining, official figures show. However, over the past two years, the decreasing trend seems to have stopped. Snus use is on the rise, even among girls. The decline in alcohol consumption among Finnish young people has also stopped.
These are among the findings of the 2019 Adolescent Health and Lifestyle Survey published by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. Conducted every two years, the survey follows the health behaviours of 12 to 18-year-old Finns.
Daily use of tobacco
Among 16 to 18-year-old Finns, 13% use tobacco products daily, while the corresponding percentage among 14-year-olds is about 2%. Ten years earlier, the corresponding figures were 25% and 8%, and 32% and 14% at the beginning of the millennium.
The Government stresses that, from the point of view of public health, the long-running positive trend seems to have stalled over the past two years. The fact that more and more young people –about 6% of girls and 15% of boys aged 16 to 18– have begun to use snus daily or occasionally in the 2010s raises concerns.
In spite of this, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health believes the goal of making Finland tobacco-free by 2030 is still achievable. About a third of 14 to 18-year-olds and half of 12-year-olds believe in the objective set in the Finnish Tobacco Act to end the use of tobacco and other nicotine products in Finland by the year 2030. This is more than in the previous Adolescent Health and Lifestyle Survey in 2017.
Fewer people are exposed to tobacco smoke in Finland than before. An increasing number of families are smoke-free: parents smoke less than before. In addition, Finns rarely smoke at home or in the car. "These are all factors that support the transition to a smoke-free society", says the Government.
According to another survey conducted by public health organization ASH Finland and published last week, about half of Finns support raising the minimum age to buy tobacco from 18 to 20 years. The study by ASH Finland also says that 63% of the population would like a total ban of tobacco on beaches, 60% on bus stops and 52% on taxi stands. Women were more in favor of extending bans on every issue than men.
E-cigarettes: daily use uncommon
According to the survey, only about 2% of 16 to 18-year-olds used electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) on a weekly basis or more frequently, and only very few 14-year-olds used them.
About half of boys and a third of girls aged 16 to 18 had tried e-cigarettes. Among young people, the reasons for trying e-cigarettes often come from a desire to try out something new or their friends’ use of e-cigarettes. Fewer than one in ten reported having used e-cigarettes to help quit smoking. The use of e-cigarettes among young people has not increased since they entered the market in the early 2010s.
Drinking stops decreasing
Non-drinking among young people increased and alcohol use and binge drinking decreased throughout the 2000s. During the past two years, however, "this positive trend seems to have stalled", the Government said. An exception to this is binge drinking among 18-year-old boys, which has continued to decrease.
Alko stores and other shops that sell alcoholic beverages have succeeded in ensuring that the legal age limits for buying alcohol are observed, the official statement says. Minors cannot buy alcoholic beverages from Alko, and very few manage to do so from other shops. However, individual retail outlets may be less effective in controlling sales to minors.