11/20/2013 – Fewer teens are smoking in Missouri, but exposure to secondhand smoke is still a cause for concern, according to new data from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (MO DHSS).
In the latest survey of Missouri middle and high school students’ health behaviors, MO DHSS found the rate of current smoking among middle students declined by more than half in that last decade, down from nearly 9 percent in 2003 to 4 percent in 2013. The survey also found a big change in the percentage of high school students who smoked. In 2013, about 15 percent of high school students reported currently smoking cigarettes. This reflects an almost 10 percent decrease since 2003 when nearly a quarter of high school students smoked.
The data, recently shared at Tobacco Free Missouri’s Annual Meeting, was encouraging news for tobacco control advocates and confirmation of the value of tobacco control efforts, particularly for young people.
“We know the tobacco industry is working hard to recruit Missouri youth to become life-long smokers,” said Tobacco Free Missouri Executive Director Traci Kennedy. “Through education, policy change and investment from statewide partners, we are happy to see that Missouri youth smoking rates are declining.”
While the specific reasons for the declines among youth are unknown, the decrease could be due to the changing views of smokefree policies among Missourians. Data also presented at the annual meeting showed support for smokefree policies in Missouri increased by 33 percent between 2007 and 2013. Today almost three in four Missourians support smokefree policies.
However, health advocates warn there are still strides to make in clearing the air. Findings from the student survey also showed that while fewer young people are smoking, about one in three middle school students and over half of all high school students were exposed to secondhand smoke in that last seven days.
Said Kennedy, “These data are concerning because adults and young people exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk for a range of serious health problems such as asthma, bronchitis, and lung and heart disease. In Missouri, secondhand smoke causes 1,150 deaths per year, that’s over three people every day.”
To date, only 23 percent of Missourians are protected from secondhand smoke by comprehensive smokefree law.
To learn more about the report, see http://health.mo.gov/data/yrbss/pdf/2013report.pdf