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Trends in smoking among Victorian secondary school students 1984–2002

White V, Hayman J, Wakefield M, Hill D

CBRC Research Paper Series No. 4, December 2003

Objective: To estimate smoking prevalence among Victorian secondary students in 2002 and to examine trends in smoking related behaviours since 1984.

Method: Following methods used for earlier surveys in this series, a randomly selected representative sample of 66 secondary schools from across the state of Victoria participated in the 2002 study. At each school, up to 80 randomly selected students completed a pencil-and-paper questionnaire anonymously. Data from 4111 students aged between 12 and 17 years are reported.

Results: Current smoking (smoking in the week before the survey) was 7% in boys and 9% in girls aged 13, and rose to a peak prevalence for boys of 30% at 17 and for girls of 33% at 16. Comparisons across survey years showed that while fewer 12- to 15-year-olds were current smokers in 2002 than at any time since the survey series began, among 16- and 17-year-olds, the proportion of current smokers had not changed significantly over this time.

Students who smoked were less likely to buy their cigarettes in 2002 than in previous surveys. However, students who smoked were more likely in 2002 to ask someone else to buy their cigarettes for them than in previous years.

Conclusion: The rise in the prevalence of smoking among younger secondary students seen in the 1990s seems to have stopped and smoking prevalence among this group has declined.

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