Health department's tobacco prevention program reports decrease in number of Utah teens experimenting with cigarettes
The percentage of high school students reporting they had tried cigarettes reached a historic low in 2005.
The latest Utah Department of Health data show that 25 percent of the teens in the state have experimented with smoking, compared to nearly 50 percent in 1991.
The 2006 tobacco prevention and control program report also shows that the state's youth smoking rate has decreased 38 percent since 1999 and continues to be the lowest in the country.
"Utah's efforts are successfully reducing tobacco use among Utah's teens through local school and community-based prevention programs, a high profile marketing campaign, and efforts to enhance tobacco policies to help youth stay tobacco free," noted Heather Borski, program manager at UDOH. "Local health departments and law enforcement have done a tremendous job of reducing youth's access to tobacco through retailer education and compliance checks as well," continued the statewide program's manager.
Recall of the TRUTH anti-tobacco advertisements was exceptionally high, with 98 percent of youth ages 13 through 17 reporting they had seen or heard the ads in the past month, according to the state health department.
A recent national study of state-funded anti-tobacco media campaigns found that Utah's campaign reached youth more frequently than any other campaign in the study.
Borski said ongoing exposure to the messages is crucial for ensuring that youth smoking rates don't rebound.
The report highlights the accomplishments of the health department's anti-tobacco campaign and the program's partners.
The program report shows that adult smoking has decreased 17 percent since 1999; twice the average decline reported in the United States.
In 2005, 80 percent of Utah adult smokers indicated that they wanted to quit and 60 percent tried to quit for at least one day.
During the 2006 fiscal year, more than 12,000 Utahns enrolled in UDOH-sponsored free or low-cost tobacco cessation services.
The data indicate that fewer pregnant women in Utah are smoking as well, with a 23 percent drop posted between 1999 and 2004.
In addition, the data indicate that the tobacco prevention program's statewide campaign to reduce the exposure of noncigarette and cigar users to secondhand smoke has been particularly successful, pointed out the health department.
Children's exposure to secondhand smoke in homes has fallen by 53 percent since 2001 and more Utahns have adopted household rules barring smoking in homes.
Since 2005, more than 2,500 additional multi-housing units became smoke free at various locations throughout the state.
And since 2003, fewer Utahns report work site exposure to secondhand smoke.
It is anticipated that even fewer people will be exposed to secondhand smoke as amendments to the 2006 Utah Indoor Clean Air Act eventually phase out smoking in taverns, private clubs and other previously exempt venues, according to the public health department.
"We are very encouraged by the latest survey results of smoking behavior in Utah," pointed out Borski. "But we can't sit back and think the work is done."
"The tobacco industry spends over $60 million each year to market and advertise its dangerous tobacco products in Utah. A long-term commitment to tobacco control is crucial to continue to save lives and reduce smoking-related costs," added the program manager.
Borski cited additional public health challenges in the tobacco prevention and control arena. The challenges include the fact that:
Tobacco use remains almost as high in Utah as national figures in the state's low income and less educated populations as well as in some racial and ethnic minority groups.
More than 200,000 Utahns continue to use tobacco.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. And more than 1,100 Utahns die annually as a result of smoking cigarettes.
Every year, Utah incurs more than $530 million in smoking-related medical and productivity costs.
Carbon County residents with Internet access may review the report online at www.tobaccofreeutah.org.