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News Release

 
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   May 7, 2002

 

Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Laura Otterbourg or Dennis McGowan
(609) 984-7160


NEW JERSEY 2001 YOUTH TOBACCO SURVEY REVEALS
SIGNIFICANT DECLINES IN TOBACCO USE

Greatest Reductions Seen Among Middle School Students and
Frequent High School Smokers

   

TRENTON-The Department of Health and Senior Services today announced that cigarette smoking dropped by 42 percent in middle schools and dropped by 11 percent in high schools in New Jersey from 1999 to 2001.

"The survey results provide evidence that we are making strides toward protecting New Jersey's future by deterring young people from smoking and helping smokers to quit," said Governor James E. McGreevey. "We must build on our successes to help even more young people avoid using tobacco and preserve their health - and that's why my proposed budget for the next fiscal year includes $30 million for the Comprehensive Tobacco Control Program and a 50-cent increase in the tobacco excise tax to reduce smoking by lowering consumption."

The youth tobacco survey, conducted by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey - School of Public Health between October and December 2001 and commissioned by the Department of Health and Senior Services, included 5,413 middle school students (grades 7 and 8) and 4,176 high school students (grades 9 to 12) from 115 schools throughout the State. Respondents were asked about tobacco use in the 30 days preceding the survey, and results were compared to the 1999 New Jersey Youth Tobacco Survey.

Overall, the survey findings support trends shown in Monitoring the Future, a national study, which noted younger age groups are showing the biggest decline in tobacco use. New Jersey's rate of decline in current cigarette use among middle school students (42 percent) exceeded the national numbers, which document a 30 percent decline among 8th graders. Additionally, current cigarette use among New Jersey high schoolers declined 11 percent (27.6 percent to 24.5 percent). While these double-digit declines are less dramatic than those among younger survey respondents, they are a strong indication of the difficulties associated with breaking an established habit.

"The tobacco use behavior of New Jersey youths is changing for the better," Commissioner Lacy said. "In addition to the 38 percent significant decrease in the use of all tobacco products, cigarette use among New Jersey middle school students has declined significantly by 42 percent in just two years. We know that tobacco use starts early-with fewer middle school students lighting up, there is increased likelihood that they will avoid pressures to use tobacco in high school, or ever."

In fact, the 2001 survey reveals evidence that New Jersey youth want to quit. Among current high school smokers, 55 percent said they wanted to quit, and the same percent reported a serious attempt to quit in the previous 12 months.

The difficulties associated with quitting become clearer when weighed against the strength of the addiction, explained Dr. Lacy: Thirty-eight percent of survey respondents who smoke reported that they couldn't go more than three hours without needing a cigarette. Among frequent smokers, the figure jumped to 48 percent. This, coupled with the fact that 12th graders who use cigarettes smoke 10 times as much as an 8th grade smoker, highlights the urgency of prevention education.

The survey does provide encouragement to those seeking to quit: In the past two years, New Jersey also saw a 23 percent decline (13.8 percent in 1999; 10.6 percent in 2001) in cigarette smoking among frequent high school smokers (those who smoked 20 or more days in the 30 days preceding the survey).

In addition to those who use tobacco, non-users reported significant exposure to tobacco smoke through environmental tobacco smoke. The 2001 survey found that 52 percent of middle school and 70 percent of high school students reported exposure to secondhand smoke in rooms or cars during the seven days preceding the survey.

Evidence from other states confirms programs supporting restrictive smoking policies have the potential to not only reduce exposure from environmental tobacco smoke, but also to reduce smoking prevalence among all age groups. Accordingly, DHSS plans to put a strong emphasis on environmental tobacco smoke in the upcoming year, through support of initiatives developed by REBEL (Reaching Everyone By Exposing Lies), New Jersey's youth anti-tobacco movement, and through Communities Against Tobacco (CAT) coalitions throughout the state.

New Jersey's efforts over the past two years have gone a long way to bring about significant reductions in youth tobacco use. In November 2000, DHSS launched REBEL, the State's teen-led anti-tobacco movement with 7,000 members throughout all 21 counties. New Jersey also offers three customized cessation services: New Jersey Quitnet (a free online resource), New Jersey Quitline (a no-cost toll-free hotline) and New Jersey Quitservices (a clinic-based cessation program available at a sliding scale fee).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently ranked New Jersey as 11th among the states in committing a substantial portion of Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement funds for tobacco control programs. New Jersey's Comprehensive Tobacco Control Program is designed to reduce the sickness, disability, and death among New Jerseyans associated with the use of tobacco and exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. To obtain a complete copy of the 2001 youth tobacco survey, log onto www.state.nj.us/health.



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Department of Health and Senior Services
P. O. Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

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