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GCASA study says 21% of Orleans 11th, 12th graders are smoking

Posted 20 August 2013 at 12:00 am

Press release, Smoke Free NOW

A state-wide survey shows that smoking rates among high school students in 2012 is down to 11.9 percent, the lowest in New York since health officials began keeping track in 1997. However, a recent survey done by a Prevention Needs Assessment through GCASA found the current smoking rates among 11th and 12th graders in Orleans County is 21.3 percent.

Local teens are still smoking and many are using smokeless tobacco. Most adults who smoke began when they were about 14 years old.

The New York State Department of Health monitors youth smoking rates using the biennial NY youth tobacco survey. The standard definition of youth smoking is smoking a cigarette on one or more days in the past 30 days.

Research from Purdue University discovered that teens who smoke are significantly influenced by whether older siblings smoke and whether their parents currently smoke or did so in the past.

The study separated the parents into four groups: non smokers, heavy smokers, light smokers or those who had quit and late-onset smokers who didn’t start until early adulthood. The results confirmed that parents who never smoked were less likely to have children who smoke. Surprisingly the highest youth smoking rate (29 percent) were by youth whose parents started smoking later in life. In addition, the researchers found that a younger sibling is six times more likely to smoke if they have an older sibling who smokes.

Another study based on a national health survey of 18,886 students in grades 6-12, and published in a recent edition of the Journal Pediatrics found that 5.6 percent of students use a form of smokeless tobacco. In addition those who used chewing tobacco, 72 percent of them smoked as well. Other research has shown smokeless tobacco use among teens is on the rise.

“These statistics are disturbing,” said Kevin Keenan, project director for Smoke Free NOW, a program of GCASA. “The tobacco companies spend enormous amounts of money to market smokeless tobacco in ways that entice youth to use their product. Not only are they packaged in fun and bright colors but they are manufactured in flavors such as chocolate and cherry. Youth perceive smokeless tobacco as being less harmful as cigarettes. We need to change youth perceptions through education and awareness.”

According to the American Lung Association, three to four times the amount of nicotine is absorbed from smokeless tobacco than delivered by a cigarette.

“Both are addictive and deadly,” Kennan said.

Chelsea Dillon, a Reality Check program assistant, is working with youth throughout Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties to help raise awareness and to fight back against the tobacco industries.

“The more youth we can inform about the dangers of using tobacco products, the better,” she said. “The youth who are involved in Reality Check can relate more with their peers and reach out to other youth about why tobacco products can be dangerous. If we can get at least one youth to reconsider ever trying a tobacco product, we view that as success.”

For more information on Smoke Free NOW or Reality Check please contact Keenan at 585-815-1875 or Dillon at 585-344-3960.