Kentucky kids light up most
Far more Kentucky youths smoke than do their peers around the country, says a new report from the state Cabinet for Health Services.
In Kentucky, 22 percent of middle school and 37 percent of high school students smoked cigarettes within the last month, compared with 9 percent of middle school and 29 percent of high school students in the United States.
The youth smoking rates correlate with the large number of adult smokers in Kentucky, which ranks just behind Nevada in the list of states with the highest smoking rates. Just under 30 percent of Kentuckians smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
''Our children are surrounded by adults who use tobacco products, and many of them begin to smoke before they finish the sixth grade,'' said Dr. Rice Leach, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health.
The data for the new report was collected by surveying more than 1,200 middle school and 1,300 high school students.
''On a positive note, we found a significant decline in the percentage of high school male smokers from 1997 to 2000,'' from 48 percent to 36 percent, said Ellen Hahn, associate professor at the University of Kentucky College of Nursing, a co-author of the report.
Ms. Hahn said the decline may be related to the increase in the price of cigarettes during during those three years.
Other findings from the survey:
Nearly two-thirds of nonsmoking middle school students and almost three-fourths of high school students reported recent exposure to second-hand smoke, which makes them more vulnerable to asthma, bronchitis and middle-ear infections.
Many young people are able to buy cigarettes, despite laws banning the sale of tobacco products to those under age 18.
Of the students surveyed, only 30 percent of middle school smokers and 32 percent of high school smokers said store clerks refused to sell them cigarettes because of their age.
The survey, the first comprehensive state study that focuses on youth tobacco issues, will be used to develop prevention efforts already under way in the state, officials said. The General Assembly earmarked $5.5 million toward the effort.
Publication date: 05-09-01