One in five people in Luxembourg smoke daily, and 28% of the 150,000 individuals surveyed online consider themselves to be smokers. This is the third consecutive annual increase in these figures after 2020 and 2021. This is “a very worrying result,” said the minister of health, Paulette Lenert (LSAP).
The smoking rate is highest amongst young people: 70% of smokers are under 34 years old and 34% of them are between 16 and 24. The proportion between men (29%) and women (27%) is almost equivalent.
“In Luxembourg, around 700 people died in 2022 because of tobacco,” explained the PNLT (national plan for tobacco control) coordinator, Pedro Marques. “And let’s not forget the many diseases linked to smoking,” added the director of health, Dr Jean-Claude Schmit.
The e-cigarette, the new trend
The classic cigarette remains the one consumed by “young adults”--61% of those who buy it are between 25 and 49 years of age--while the youngest are moving towards the electronic cigarette and, more precisely, the “puffs.” Only 11% were using them in 2021 compared to 21% last year.
“The dangers are higher in younger people, smoking destroys their cerebral cortex more easily and they become addicted more easily, which makes withdrawal even more difficult,” said the director of the cancer foundation, Lucienne Thomes.
Packaging of all colours, an infinite number of flavours available (apple, mint, red fruit, etc.), an unbeatable price (around €7) and false information on the risks it causes (38% think it is less harmful than cigarettes) are all reasons that encourage consumers to try it.
“We need to act on all fronts,” said health minister Lenert. “We need to run aggressive prevention campaigns to inform people who are not properly informed and try to wean those who use.”
This campaign is necessary because only 26% of those surveyed are aware of the mission of the smoking cessation programme set up by the ministry of health and the national health fund (CNS).
50% of smokers say they are ready to stop smoking, a process that is not easy. According to the study, smokers try to quit three or four times before they succeed. External factors such as stress or weight gain can also be causes of withdrawal failure.
According to the WHO, a 10% increase in the price of cigarette packs reduces consumption by about 4% in high-income countries. In Luxembourg the average price of a pack of 20 cigarettes in 2022 is €4.78 according to Statista, a far cry from France and its €10.19.
“This is not enough and neighbouring countries keep reminding us that prices are an obvious measure, but they are not the only solution,” explained the health minister.
This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.