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For Immediate Release
Thursday, January 17, 2002
Contact:Heidi B. Perlman 781-338-3106 or Jonathan Palumbo 781-338-3105

Survey Shows Teen Smoking Down Steadily Since 1995

MALDEN - Just 26 percent of Massachusetts' teens say they smoked a cigarette in the past month, and among those who light up regularly, 74 percent say they have tried to quit at least once, according to the 2001 Massachusetts Youth Tobacco Report.

The survey found that since 1995, the number of students who say they have ever tried cigarettes dropped from 72 percent to 62 percent, and those who said they smoked in the past month dropped from 36 percent to 26 percent.

Anti-smoking programs are in place at every school district in the state, and most have policies that specify the consequences for student violations. Still, while smoking on school property has dropped significantly, nearly half of student smokers said they lit up on school property in the past month.

The survey was completed by 4,204 students from 64 cooperating public high schools in grades 9 through 12. Approximately 51 percent of those surveyed were male and 49 percent were female.

"This year's survey shows us that while we have come a long way in terms of getting our young people to cut down, we still have a long way to go, particularly given all of the information we have on the dangers of smoking," said Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll. "I am pleased to see these numbers dropping, but I would be happier to see them get even lower."

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health Tobacco Control Program works closely with the Department of Education on smoking education and prevention efforts. More than 7,000 events have been held in Massachusetts schools since 1994, including lectures by people afflicted with smoking related diseases. In addition, three video teaching guides have been developed and distributed to more than 1,500 middle schools in the Commonwealth.

"Massachusetts is changing the social norms," said MDPH Commissioner Dr. Howard Koh. "We are empowering our young people to lead their peers to a smoke free future."

According to the report, about two-thirds of high schools and one-quarter of middle schools offer on-site smoking cessation programs for students, and most offer referrals to students and staff for programs elsewhere. Of that group, school health officials estimate about one-quarter of participants either quit or cut down on smoking.

In all, 10 percent of the students surveyed said they smoke cigarettes daily, down from 15 percent in 1995. Daily smoking also increased with grade level, from 6.6 percent among ninth graders to 17 percent among high school seniors.

Among those who smoke daily, 38 percent said they smoke at least half a pack a day, a slight decline from 42 percent in 1999.

"Though it's good to see this steady decline, these numbers still concern me," said Commissioner Driscoll. "As long as one student is still smoking, we have more work to do."

The anonymous survey, given bi-annually since 1993, is part of the Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The report gauges the habits of public school students on a range of topics, including tobacco, alcohol and drug use, sexual risk behavior, dietary habits and physical activity. The tobacco results were released on Thursday, and the remainder of the survey will be published later this year.

The full report can be viewed online at the Department of Education's Web site.

Last Updated: January 17, 2002
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