Indiana’s Youth Smoking Rates Drop Dramatically

In State News on July 9, 2009 at 3:09 pm

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana health officials today reported that the state’s youth smoking rates have reached “historic new lows” among middle school and high school-aged students; data that suggests that the lives of tens of thousands of youth in the Hoosier state will be saved by the fact they never start using tobacco.

According to Karla Sneegas, executive director, Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation (ITPC), the 2008 Indiana Youth Tobacco Survey (YTS) showed smoking among high school students dropped from 23.2 percent in 2006 to 18.3 percent in 2008, a  decline of 21 percent. Among middle school students, the rates fell even more dramatically from 7.7 percent to just 4.1 percent for same time period – a 47 percent decline.

Since 2000, high school smoking has dropped 42 percent, from 31.6 percent in 2000 to 18.3 percent in 2008.  Middle school smoking has been cut 58 percent from 9.8 percent in 2000 to 4.1 percent in 2008.

“Each year, cigarette smoking causes more deaths than alcohol, AIDS, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined,” said State Health Commissioner, Judy Monroe, M.D.  “The best way to prevent these deaths is to keep young people from starting smoking in the first place.  This survey shows the young people in Indiana are getting the message, which is ‘Don’t let the tobacco companies fool you.  Smoking is not cool or fun and it can kill you.’”

The YTS data show that overall gains are being made particularly among teens identified as “established smokers.” Established youth smokers are defined as those who have smoked at least 20 of the last 30 days.

“Teens who are established smokers are already on the road to a lifetime addiction to smoking and will be the patients who show up in their doctor’s offices with chronic diseases like heart disease,” says Sneegas.  “Today’s reduction in teen smoking will result in huge health care savings for Indiana down the road.”

Data from the 2008 survey show that the smoking rate for teen established smokers dropped by more than 25 percent from 11.7 percent in 2006 to 8.7 percent in 2008.

“Data in this year’s study suggests that established youth smokers are 15 times more likely to grow up to be addicted adult smokers compared to those who have never smoked even a puff,” said Matthew Farrelly, health economist and project director from RTI, ITPC’s evaluation and research coordinating center that analyzed the data from the survey. 

According to Sneegas, teen smokers respond even more quickly than adults to the evidence-based programs that ITPC implements in local communities across Indiana.  These programs focus on recommended interventions from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs including creating tobacco free norms through VOICE,  Indiana’s youth tobacco prevention movement; supporting efforts to raise cigarette price and limit tobacco industry marketing; and increasing smoke free environments and smoke free workplaces.

Emily Kile, who will soon begin her senior year at Greenfield Central H.S., leads the Hancock County VOICE youth movement and was recently named National Youth Advocate of the Year by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (TFK). Kile’s local VOICE program targets tobacco company advertising and marketing aimed to lure teens into a lifetime addiction to smoking. 

“Teens are targeted on a daily basis by the tobacco industry’s marketing and advertising as part of the over $1 million that the industry spends every single day in Indiana,” Kile explained. “All around us, the tobacco industry tries to get us hooked to all sorts of products, from cigarettes and cigars to spit tobacco and, now, candy-like dissolvables. If they had their way, it would never end. I think what you’re seeing here in Indiana is a real movement that’s gaining ground every day.”

“We have a lot more work ahead of us, especially among adult smokers, but I am heartened by this positive trend in the behaviors of our young people, which is in no small part due to the efforts of Gov. Daniels’ INShape Indiana and Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation,” added Dr. Monroe.

The Indiana Youth Tobacco Survey is a statewide sample of middle schools and high schools in Indiana.  In 2008, 47 high schools representing approximately 3,700 youth and 52 middle schools representing 3,300 youth participated.  The survey is administered in participating schools that are selected randomly by the CDC.  The survey contains questions about tobacco use knowledge, attitudes, and behavior, as well as exposure to secondhand smoke and exposure to pro-tobacco marketing ads and movies.


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