Background: 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.
Methods: 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.
Results: 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.
Conclusion: 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.