Young Norwegian smoke less

The number of Norwegian teenagers who smoke tobacco daily has declined by half in five years to about 5 percent, the lowest level since studies began, health authorities said Monday. The Norwegian Directorate of Social Affairs and Health began the studies of teen smoking habits in 1975, when about 15.1 percent of boys and 17 percent of girls all between the ages of 13 and 15 said they were regular smokers.

The corresponding result for 2005 was 4.9 percent of the boys and 5 percent of the girls. The studies are done every five years. The legal smoking age is 18 and above. The agency's managing director Bjoern-Inge Larsen called the latest results remarkable.

"We haven't seen such a big change in Norway for any age group before," he said on national radio. "We don't know of any other country with a similar result either. This is excellent." Norway heavily taxes tobacco products to discourage used, pushing the price of a pack of cigarettes to about 66 kroner (US$10 or Ђ 8.25). It also bans smoking in public offices and transportation, as well as in bars and restaurants.

The government routinely stages regular anti-smoking campaigns, often with graphic medical photos intended to drive home the risk of smoking. "We have worked many ways and have been very goal oriented in trying to get fewer young people to start smoking," said Larsen. "We had hoped to see results in this group, but that it came so fast and was so big was surprising."

The study also reported that 40 percent of both sexes said they had tried smoking, and that only 6.5 percent said they were likely to be regular smokers by the time they are 20. Larsen said the study suggests that smoking is on the way out for younger Norwegians.

The study of nearly 5,000 secondary school pupils was conducted with interviews during November and December throughout Norway by the TNS Gallup Institute. The study did not give a margin of error, but said a sample of 5,000 gives a highly reliable result in a country with a population of 4.6 million people, reports the AP.

N.U.