By Evie Andreou
CYPRUS may not have garnered a top spot in the recent Eurovision song contest but it has hit the top of those EU countries where smoking has increased over the past three years, with one third still puffing away, according to a Eurobarometer released yesterday.
Despite an overall decrease in smoking across the bloc since 2012, the survey said, the number of smokers in Cyprus and Germany had increased by 1 per cent over the last three years. Standing now at 31 per cent who smoke, the island made it to the top five, following Greece, Bulgaria, Croatia and France.
Six out of ten Cypriots said they had tried to quit smoking.
The highest proportions of ex-smokers are found in the Netherlands at 31 per cent but only just above 1 in 10 respondents had actually stopped smoking in Cyprus.
The poll was carried out between November and December 2014 by CYMAR on behalf of the European Commission.
According to the results, just over 25 per cent of respondents in the EU currently smoke either boxed cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos or a pipe, two per cent fewer than 2012. Greece had the highest number of smokers overall at 40 per cent of the population. The country with the fewest smokers was Sweden at 13 per cent.
Cypriots, who smoke on average of 20.5 cigarettes per day were on the top spot with the Greeks at 19.4 and Austrians 18.3 per day. The EU average is little over 14 a day.
The total ban on indoor smoking in restaurants in Cyprus, did not prevent the country from ranking once again among the highest in reports concerning exposure to second-hand smoke in eating and drinking establishments.
More than 50 per cent of the people asked in Cyprus said that in the last six months they had visited a restaurant or bar where indoor smoking was taking place, well over the EU average which is 25 per cent.
“Once again, legislation and enforcement will have had an impact on these results,” the survey said.
More than 50 per cent of the people asked in Cyprus also said they were exposed to smoking in the workplace, and according to the survey, second-hand smoking in the workplace in Cyprus had increased by 14 per cent since 2012, again straying from the EU average according to which seven out of ten workers said they are rarely or never exposed to indoor smoking.
As regards electronic cigarettes, which the report noted had increased in use, Cyprus follows the EU average of two per cent who vape. The majority said had they switched to try and stop or reduce tobacco smoking. E-cigarettes are most widely used in France and the UK.
Overall, on average the majority of smokers, 53 per cent said they started between the ages of 15 and 18, while smokers are more commonly found in southern member states, the survey said.
It adds that the longer-term trend since 2006 shows a general decline in the proportion of smokers and that the current survey showed that the most significant decrease was recorded in the 15 to 24 age group, which the report characterises as encouraging.
According to the survey, tobacco consumption remains the largest avoidable health risk in the European Union, and it is responsible for 700,000 deaths each year. Around 50 per cent of smokers die prematurely, resulting in the loss of an average of 14 years of life.
In a recent study of the of the island’s cardiological association, tobacco smokers in Cyprus have increased because of the economic crisis. The study indicated though, that the economic crisis had also prompted smokers to seek help to kick the habit because they cannot afford to buy cigarettes, anymore. Last year, some 348 people sought help from the state to quit smoking, three times the number compared with 2012.
The health ministry is constantly promoting the dangers of smoking and incorporates anti-smoking messages in every occasion since it is linked to several forms of cancer, respiratory ailments, heart conditions and high blood pressure.