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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
May 31, 2005

Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Marilyn Riley
(609) 984-7160


 
World No Tobacco Day: Survey Shows Youth Smoking Declining in New Jersey; Adult Smoking Rates Drop Below 19 Percent for the First Time


 

          TRENTON – According to the 2004 New Jersey Youth Tobacco Survey, current cigarette smoking has declined 37 percent among high school students and 61 percent among middle school students in the last five years, Health and Senior Services Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D. announced today on World No Tobacco Day.

          “Our department and many other groups statewide have worked hard to help young people remain smoke-free and encourage them to quit if they’ve already started,” Commissioner Jacobs said.  “And three cigarette excise tax increases in as many years have also served to discourage young people from smoking.

“All of these efforts are paying off, as the rapid decline in smoking rates shows.  New Jersey has already met its 2010 health objectives for youth smoking. But we can’t rest until we eliminate smoking as a health threat for young people as well as for the entire population,” Dr. Jacobs added.

In addition, New Jersey’s adult smoking rates are also declining.  Data from the 2004 New Jersey’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey shows that 18.8 percent of the state’s adults were current smokers in 2004, compared with 19.4 percent in 2003.   Smoking rates differ by gender.  Among men, current smoking rates dropped from 21.1 percent in 2003 to 20.1 in 2004.  Women’s rates declined slightly from 17.8 to 17.6 percent. 

The 2004 New Jersey Youth Tobacco Survey was administered last fall to 4,577 middle and high school students in 76 schools. Commissioned by the Department of Health and Senior Services, the report was prepared by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) – School of Public Health and funded with cigarette excise tax money.  The survey enables the department to track trends in youth tobacco use and evaluate the effectiveness of youth education and prevention programs.  Previous surveys were conducted in 1999 and 2001.

The 2004 survey asked students about both current and lifetime tobacco use, frequency of use, number of cigarettes consumed, method of acquiring cigarettes, and secondhand smoke exposure.  Use of cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, and bidis – small, hand-rolled cigarettes imported from other counties – were covered by the survey.

A current tobacco user is anyone who has used the product at least once in the previous 30 days.  According to the 2004 survey, 17.3 percent of high school students were current cigarette smokers compared with 27.6 percent in 1999, which is a 37 percent decline.  Among middle school students, 4.1 percent were current smokers compared with 10.5 in 1999, for a decline of 61 percent.

The 2004 results also represented a decline from 2001, when 24.5 percent of high school and 6.1 percent of middle school students were current smokers.

In both age groups, males and females experienced similar decreases in overall tobacco use since 1999.  Among high school students, the declines were greater for black students than for white and Hispanic students.  Among middle school students, the decline was also greatest among blacks, though significant decreases were seen in all racial and ethnic groups. 

“Also encouraging is the finding that fewer middle and high school students are experimenting with tobacco products,” said Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, deputy commissioner and state epidemiologist.  “Preventing and delaying tobacco use is a critical first step to reducing the prevalence of tobacco use among young people.”

According to the survey, the percent of students who used any tobacco product in their lifetime has declined since 1999, and the percent who have ever smoked a cigarette has declined significantly. 

New Jersey’s excise tax on cigarettes was raised in 2002, 2003 and 2004, and is now $2.40 a pack – the nation’s second highest cigarette tax.  However, the survey points out that taxes on other tobacco products have been reduced since 2002.  The survey warns that lower prices may encourage students to experiment with or switch to these products.

Some of the survey’s other key findings include:

  • Current cigarette use by high school students (17.3 percent) is now lower than that for high school students nationwide (22.3 percent.).

  • After cigarettes, the next most frequently used tobacco products in high school are cigars, smokeless tobacco and bidis.  In middle school, bidi use was slightly more prevalent than smokeless tobacco use.

  • The number of cigarettes smoked in the last 30 days increases dramatically by grade, with the highest number in 12th grade.  However, compared with 1999 and 2001, the average number smoked in 2004 was lower for each class in grades 7 through 12.

  • Frequent cigarette smoking – defined as smoking on at least 20 of the last 30 days – decreased significantly among high school students, from 13.8 percent in 1999 to 7 percent in 2004.  The largest decline was seen among Hispanic high school students.

  •  The survey estimates annual cigarette consumption among New Jersey’s 7th to 12th grade students at 86 million cigarettes or 4.3 million packs.

  • More than half (57.7 percent) of current high school smokers who bought or tried to buy cigarettes in a store reported they were not asked to show proof of age, although this is still a significant decrease from 1999 when 67 percent said they were not carded.

  • During the seven days before the survey, 48.5 percent of middle school and 62 percent of high school students reported being exposed to secondhand smoke in rooms or cars.

                   

Since 2000, the department’s Comprehensive Tobacco Control Program (CTCP) has implemented a variety of statewide and local tobacco control initiatives to reduce youth smoking.

New Jersey’s REBEL (Reaching Everyone By Exposing Lies), a youth-led anti-tobacco movement, gives high school students the opportunity to educate their peers and undertake grassroots anti-smoking projects.  A similar program, REBEL 2, is aimed at middle school students and a leadership program, REBEL U, is for college students.

The department has also funded two initiatives to help adolescent smokers quit tobacco.  Since 2001, the CTCP has worked with the American Lung Association to provide the N-O-T (Not On Tobacco) youth cessation program in several schools throughout the state.  The CTCP has also supported training for high school staff to create and conduct a curriculum based tobacco cessation program called Youth Quit2Win, which is implemented by the UMDNJ – Tobacco Dependence Program.

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