SOME 23 percent of Balearic young people between 14 and 18 years old smoke.
This puts them five percentage points below the national average which is 28 percent, according to the latest figures (from 2004) for tobacco consumption among teenagers from the Ministry for the Interior. According to the President of the Spanish Association Against Cancer in the Balearics, Teresa Martorell, around 33 percent of young people between 16 and 24 years old in Spain are smokers, and the average age at which they start smoking is 13.
Bearing this in mind, Martorell calculates that between 50 and 70 percent of all Spanish children are living in a smoking environment.
These figures were made public yesterday during a press conference called to mark World Non Smoking Day.
Also present were Palma's councillor for Social Affairs, Margalida Ferrando, and the councillor for Health, Begoña Moragues. Martorell explained that the existing figures for the consumption of tobacco amongst young people in Spain indicate a reduction in the proportion of young smokers, with a drop in female smokers from 35.3 percent in 2003 to 34.4 percent in 2006 and from 38.5 percent to 32.1 percent for male smokers.
Martorell spoke of the need to pass laws so that enclosed public places will be smoke free zones, as well as implementing education strategies directed at parents to reduce their children's exposure to tobacco smoke in the home and in private vehicles, and the development of treatment programmes aimed at helping young people stop smoking.
In Martorell's opinion it is necessary to have physical barriers to guarantee that places will be 100 percent smoke free.
She also talked about the significant risk for the health of children and young people posed by tobacco smoke and said that there had been a noticeable rise in babies born with breathing difficulties which could last, she claimed, until they are 18 months old.
With this in mind, Martorell said that for children aged between two and 12 years, their parents' smoking increases the risk of cases of asthma and other respiratory problems such as sinusitis and earache, which could last for some time.
With regard to the activities for World Non Smoking Day, Martorell explained that an information tent had been installed in the Plaza del Olivar, where cigarettes were exchanged for lollipops all day yesterday and people could have their carbon monoxide levels measured. Information tables were also installed in the Plaza de Santa Eulalia, the Municipal building in the Avenidas, the Municipal Police Building in San Fernando, the transport hub, and the Ramon Llull building at the Balearic 5University.