40% still experience smoking in playgrounds

Eurobarometer survey finds Maltese mostly likely Europeans to experience outdoor smoking in areas frequented by kids and teens

Maltese smokers are also more likely to rely on boxed cigarettes for their daily dose of nicotine than other Europeans
Maltese smokers are also more likely to rely on boxed cigarettes for their daily dose of nicotine than other Europeans

The Maltese are more likely to experience outdoor smoking in areas frequented by kids and teens, than other Europeans.

41% of Maltese respondents in a Eurobarometer survey reported the presence of smokers in outdoor places intended for teens or children like parks and playgrounds compared to only 31% of all respondents in the EU and the UK.

Moreover 84% of Maltese have been exposed to smoking in outdoor terraces of eating or drinking establishments compared to 70% of respondents in the EU and the UK.

Smoking in playgrounds is illegal in Malta, but bars and restaurants are allowed to have terraces were smoking is allowed.

Maltese smokers are also more likely to rely on boxed cigarettes for their daily dose of nicotine than other Europeans.

The survey shows the Maltese are less likely to try electronic cigarettes, with only 7% having tried them compared to 14% of all Europeans. Only 2% reported using products which included cannabis in the past year, compared to 8% of Europeans.

The proportion of those exposed to smoking in playgrounds and outdoor places for teens and children was particularly high in Cyprus (63%), Bulgaria (62%) and Croatia (52%). Conversely, those in Hungary (8%), Sweden (13%) and Finland (16%) are the least likely to answer this way.

The highest proportions of those exposed to smoking on terraces can be observed in France (89%), Spain (88%), and Belgium and Cyprus (both 87%). At the opposite end of the scale, less than half in Sweden (26%), Hungary (34%), Poland (41%) and Lithuania (42%) answer this way.

The survey also shows a drastic 17 percentage-point decrease in the Maltese who said they are exposed to smoking inside bars: from 39% in 2017 to 22% now. This percentage was highest in Croatia (73%), Cyprus (47%), Slovakia (45%) and Denmark (31%) and lowest in Sweden (3%), Hungary (5%) and Austria (7%).

“These results show that despite the existence of indoor smoking bans across the EU, indoor tobacco smoke in drinking establishments is still an issue in a number of countries,” the Eurobarometer report stated.

Quitters anonymous

While the survey shows an overall decrease in the number of Maltese smokers, from 23% to 20%, the proportion of smokers who tried quitting in the last 12 months has decreased by 10 percentage points, when compared to those in 2017. Conversely, the percentage of those trying to quit increased in 18 countries since 2017 – Finland mainly (9pp) – and decreasing in nine, Sweden (-12pp), Malta (-10 pp) and Greece (-8 pp).

Moreover the proportion of respondents who replied having never tried to quit actually rose by a staggering 20 points in Malta.

The Maltese are also more likely than other Europeans to resort to medical support to stop smoking. In most cases, less than one in ten used medical support or cessation services in an attempt to quit smoking. The only notable exceptions are Malta (23%), where close to one-quarter say they have used this method, and Austria (16%).

Those who used nicotine replacement or other medication has increased by 12pp in Malta, compared to 2017. But the percentage of those who tried quitting without any assistance fell by 9 pp.

At a young 16.9 years, the average age for starting smoking in Malta remains one of the lowest in Europe, just above Denmark (16.5) and slightly lower the UK 17.1. This compares to an average age of 19.5 in Lithuania (19.5), Cyprus (19.4) and Poland (19.3).

When looking specifically at the proportions of people who have never smoked, in 20 countries, at least half of the respondents have never smoked, with the highest proportions observed in Portugal (64%), and Malta, Poland and Romania (all 62%). At the other end of the scale, 41% in Greece, 45% in Spain and 46% in Estonia, France and Latvia have never smoked.