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Public Health - Seattle & King County

Tobacco Prevention Program Newsletter, Winter 2011
By Lindsey Greto

Critical need to prevent youth from tobacco use

Everyday in the United States, about 4,100 youth between the ages of 12 and 17 try a cigarette for the first timei. Of the youth who take up smoking, about one in three will eventually die from a tobacco-related disease.ii

Youth cigarette use declined sharply from 1997 - 2003, but in recent years the decline has stallediii and the rate of smokeless product usage has increased.iv In King County, 17.3 percent of high school seniors report current cigarette use, and more youth use smokeless tobacco than adultsv.

Tobacco companies can no longer overtly market their products to youth, but instead use covert marketing techniques, such as production of youth-friendly products, advertisements in magazines with high youth readership and tobacco industry sponsorship of recreation events. Nearly 80% of adult smokers started before the age of 18vi.

Teens that use Tobacco are:

3 times more likely to get Cs/Ds/Fs

4 times more likely to skip class

21 times more likely to use marijuana

4 times more likely to be suspended

8 times more likely to binge drink

36 times more likely to use drugsix

Products that are especially appealing to youth include flavored smokeless tobacco. These products are easily concealed from parents and teachers and often come in candy-like flavors. Tobacco industry documents show that flavored products have historically been aggressively marketed to attract new, young users, who then graduate to non-flavored products in adulthood.viiNot only can experimentation with tobacco products in adolescence result in a lifelong addiction, it's also related to poor academic performance and other high-risk behaviors.Healthy students are more prepared to learn. Students with certain health risk factors, including tobacco use, have worse outcomes in school. Reducing student tobacco use:
  • Improves graduation rates
  • Increases seat time for students
  • Improves classroom management
  • Improves test scores
  • Improves learning disparities
  • Increases personal successviii

These alarming statistics underscore the need for effective youth tobacco prevention programs.

i Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2010). Results from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Volume I. Summary of National Findings (Office of Applied Studies, NSDUH Series H-38A, HHS Publication No. SMA 10-4586Findings).Rockville, MD.

ii CDC. Sustaining State Programs for Tobacco Control: Data Highlights, 2006. Atlanta, GA. CDC; 2006. Available at:

iii Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cigarette Use Among High School Students-United States, 1991-2007. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2008;57(25):686-8

iv Johnston LD, O'Malley PM, Bachman PM, Schulenberg JE. Monitoring the Future: Smoking Continues Gradual Decline Among U.S. Teens, Smokeless Tobacco Threatens a Comeback. (PDF-786.99 KB) Ann Arbor (MI): University of Michigan News Service, 2009

v Washington state DOH statistics:

vi Accessed from Calculated based on data from the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Office of Applied Studies. (2009).


viii "Research Review: School-based Health Interventions and Academic Achievement" by Julia Dilley, Sept 2009

ix "Disparities in Youth Tobacco Use in Washington State", Washington State Department of Health Tobacco Prevention.