Fla. Survey Shows Teen Smoking Drop
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Smoking in the boys' room may soon be an old school memory.
According to a survey released Wednesday, the number of Florida middle school students who smoke dropped by nearly half over the last year. Numbers also were down among high schoolers.
``It's just not the cool thing to do anymore,'' said 17-year-old Kim Caro, working at a Tallahassee pizza restaurant.
In 1999, 15 percent of middle schoolers questioned by the state Department of Health said they had smoked at least one cigarette in the past 30 days. Earlier this year, the number was 8.6 percent.
In high school, the percentage of smokers dropped from 25.2 percent last year to just under 21 percent this year, and those who said they used smokeless tobacco also was down.
``Our interpretation of this data can be summed up in one word - `Wow!''' said state Health Secretary Bob Brooks.
Part of the credit is going to the state's 2-year-old tobacco control project, an education and ad campaign partly designed by students and paid for with money won in Florida's $13 billion settlement with cigarette makers.
The hard-hitting ads include one depicting tobacco executives thanking a young man on a ventilator for his business. Another depicts the cigarette executives being honored at an awards ceremony for killing more people than murder and Hitler.
Most kids recognize the ads: other surveys done by the anti-tobacco program show about 95 percent of teens are familiar with the spots.
In the two years since the Florida Tobacco Pilot Program began airing the spots, the number of Florida teen-agers who admit to smoking has fallen 54 percent in middle schools and 24 percent in high schools.
``What does this translate into?'' asked Brooks of the dramatic drop in teen smoking. ``Almost 80,000 fewer teen smokers in Florida over the last two years with the potential to save up to 27,000 lives if those results are carried into the future.''
The Department of Health survey was answered by more than 22,000 teen-agers across the state and based on a design by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
Teen smoking also is dropping nationally, but not nearly as much as in Florida.
Tara Byrd, a coworker of Caro's at the Tallahassee pizza parlor, offered another reason why the rates might be in decline. The 17-year-old, who started smoking at 12 but quit last year, said cigarettes have gotten too expensive.
``You'd rather spend your money on other things,'' she said.