Tobacco use trends show slow decline for middle, high school students in state
According to a newly released Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report on the 2011 National Youth Tobacco Survey, tobacco use among middle and high school students shows a downward trend from 2000 to 2011 – from 34.4 percent to 23.2 percent for high school students and 14.9 percent to 7.1 percent for middle school. Compared to a decade ago, though, the rate of decline is much slower.
“Overall we’re headed in the right direction, and that’s the good news,” said Celeste Schoenthaler, tobacco program manager at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “But part of the reason we’re not seeing a faster decline in tobacco use among youth here in Colorado is because kids can find a variety of tobacco products that are appealing and cheap. It’s not just cigarettes. Youth are using products like little cigars and smokeless tobacco products such as chew or snus.”
In particular, the survey found high rates of cigar smoking and smokeless tobacco use among high school boys, with 15.7 percent smoking cigars and 12.9 percent using smokeless tobacco. Cigar smoking among black high school students increased significantly from 2009 to 2011, from 7.1 percent to 11.7 percent.
Many tobacco products are flavored to make them more attractive to new users, even though flavored cigarettes now are prohibited. Tobacco companies can put fruit and candy flavors in cigarette-sized cigars and a variety of smokeless products. Using these products can lead to nicotine addiction and future smoking.
According to the CDC, nearly 90 percent of people who use tobacco became addicted before the age of 18. Tobacco addiction can lead to a lifetime of serious health problems. The best way to prevent tobacco use is not to start.
“Before school starts, we encourage parents, school administrators and others to ensure the tobacco-free school law is enforced at their schools, and that youth understand the tobacco industry advertising and products are intended to hook them for life,” said Schoenthaler.
School District 51 does not count tobacco use as an expellable offense, but the campuses are tobacco free. Disciplinary measures for students who violate this policy include in-house detention, revocation of privileges and exclusion from extracurricular activities. Repeated violations may result in suspension from school. In accordance with state law, no student shall be expelled solely for tobacco use. The numbers for School District 51 don’t necessarily coincide with the CDC statistics because the reports pertain to incidents of suspension for tobacco use, not the amount of students suspended for it. The numbers from each year counts incidents from repeating offenders. Students with multiple offenses would be counted multiple times.
In the 2011-12 school year, 73 incidents involving tobacco use on campus were reported. This is a slight increase from the 2010-11 school year when only 69 incidents occurred. Overall, the numbers have fluctuated since the 2005-06 school year when there were 104 incidents.