Monday, December 14, 2009

Fewer Teens Smoking, But More Teens Chewing Tobacco

/PRNewswire/ -- New data announced in today's Monitoring the Future study shows that while teen smoking rates are continuing their slow decline, an old threat has once again emerged - the use of smokeless tobacco. The study found that among 8th, 10th and 12th graders - all groups surveyed each year by the study - teen smoking rates among 8th and 12th graders continued to trend downward, while daily smoking amongst 10th graders crept upwards (5.9% in 2008 to 6.3% in 2009). Perhaps more concerning is the slight increase in daily smokeless tobacco use amongst 10th graders (now up to 1.9% in 2009 from 1.4 in 2008) and 12th graders (now 2.9 in 2009 up from 2.7 in 2008). Public health experts had predicted this increase in response to the tobacco industry's wide-ranging and aggressively marketed smokeless products now widely available.

The report, now in its 35th year, is the most respected source for data about youth smoking. In light of the findings in today's report, more needs to be done to reduce tobacco consumption writ large among the nation's youth. Also reported in today's announcement:

-- The perceived risk of using smokeless tobacco products has decreased
in all grades as has disapproval of smokeless products amongst 8th and
10th graders - a troubling trend indicating teens are not aware of the
harm smokeless products can cause and that they are a viable
alternative to cigarette smoking.
-- Teens prefer to date peers who do not smoke - 81.3% in 8th grade,
79.9% in 10th grade and 74.9% in 12th grade. This indicates that
social norms surrounding smoking continue to shift.

Legacy, the national public health foundation devoted to keeping young people from smoking and helping all smokers quit, has been committed to finding new ways to reach and engage with the teen audience, with the ultimate goal of reducing youth smoking prevalence. This is especially important as the tobacco industry continues to successfully market its products and addict new smokers.

The public health community, doctors and parents must work together to foster a continued rate of decline. The Master Settlement Agreement reached in 1998 between attorneys general from 46 states, five US territories and the tobacco industry provided our country with a unique opportunity - and with focused funding -- to address youth smoking and help smokers who want to quit.

About eighty percent of all smokers have their first cigarette before age 18(1), and every day 1,500 youth become daily smokers(2). These daily smokers will continue down a path of tobacco-related diseases and will incur higher healthcare costs than nonsmoking Americans. Funding youth smoking-prevention efforts could prevent these ill effects.

On heels of today's study release, the "Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 11 Years Later" report released last week by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and other leading public health groups, found that despite two sources of revenue -- funding provided through the Master Settlement Agreement and funding from taxes placed on tobacco -- states are spending just 2.3 percent of revenue from tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes on tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

The Monitoring the Future study has concluded that mass media campaigns can reduce smoking, especially when combined with other tobacco control strategies. However, youth smoking prevention campaigns sponsored by the tobacco industry have been ineffective and may actually have increased youth smoking.

The foundation's truth(R) youth smoking prevention campaign is a national effort that delivers facts and messages to teens about tobacco, but avoids giving directive statements telling youths not to smoke. Research has indicated that in the first four years of the campaign, 18 percent of the overall decline in youth smoking was directly attributable to truth(R). As the only organization directing a national media campaign for youth smoking prevention - other than the tobacco industry - it is critical that funding continues to grow for efforts like the truth(R) campaign and state-specific smoking prevention campaigns.

Legacy(SM) is dedicated to building a world where young people reject tobacco and anyone can quit. Located in Washington, D.C., the national public health organization helps Americans live longer, healthier lives. Legacy develops programs that address the health effects of tobacco use, especially among vulnerable populations disproportionately affected by the toll of tobacco, through grants, technical assistance and training, partnerships, youth activism, and counter-marketing and grassroots marketing campaigns. The foundation's programs include truth(R), a national youth smoking prevention campaign that has been cited as having contributed to significant declines in youth smoking; EX(R), an innovative public health program designed to speak to smokers in their own language and change the way they approach quitting; and research initiatives exploring the causes, consequences and approaches to reducing tobacco use. The American Legacy Foundation was created as a result of the November 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) reached between attorneys general from 46 states, five U.S. territories and the tobacco industry. Visit

(1) Mowery PD, Brick PD, Farrelly MC. Legacy First Look Report 3. Pathways to Established Smoking: Results from the 1999 National Youth Tobacco Survey. Washington DC: American Legacy Foundation. October 2000.

(2) MMWR. 1998. Decline Selected Cigarette Smoking Initiation and Quitting Behaviors Among High School Students. 47(19):386-389.

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