Background: Nicotine dependence during adolescence increases the risk of continuing smoking into adulthood. The magnitude of nicotine dependence among adolescents in the European Union (EU) has not been established. We aimed to estimate the number of nicotine dependent 15-year-old adolescents in the EU, and identify high-risk groups.
Methods: The number of nicotine dependent 15-year-olds in the EU was derived combining: (i) total number of 15-year-olds in the EU (2013 Eurostat), (ii) smoking prevalence among 15-year-olds (2013/2014 HBSC survey) and (iii) proportion of nicotine dependent 15-year-olds in six EU countries (2013 SILNE survey). Logistic regression analyses identified high-risk groups in the SILNE dataset.
Results: We estimated 172 636 15-year-olds were moderately to highly nicotine dependent (3.2% of all 15 years old; 35.3% of daily smokers). In the total population, risk of nicotine dependence was higher in males, adolescents with poor academic achievement, and those with smoking parents or friends. Among daily smokers, only lower academic achievement and younger age of smoking onset were associated with nicotine dependence.
Conclusion: According to our conservative estimates, more than 172 000 15-year-old EU adolescents were nicotine dependent in 2013. Prevention of smoking initiation, especially among adolescents with poor academic performance, is necessary to prevent a similar number of adolescents getting addicted to nicotine each consecutive year.