Lifestyle

Experts: High school seniors more likely to smoke than most adults

The Mirror

A three-day conference last week organized by King County health officials put the spotlight on efforts to keep minors from smoking.

Officials said about 90 percent of local retailers that sell tobacco products refuse to sell them to children. An organization of one group of retailers helped sponsor the conference. But youth still have other ways to smoke. Despite improvemed enforcement and anti-smoking education during the past decade, high schools are more likely to smoke than the average adult, according to organizers of the Access 2006 Conference April 12-14 in Seattle.

How is this happening? How do youth get their cigarettes? And what are the attitudes that still need to be changed among both youth and adults to continue to reduce youth smoking rates? Those were among the questions discussed during the conference’s focus on “social sources” of tobacco, or sources other than retailers.

The inaugural conference was for people from throughout the U.S. who work in preventing tobacco use among underage youth. Conference attendees included health and law enforcement officials, educators and researchers.

The keynote speaker was Michael Moore, a former state attorney general for Mississippi and leader of national lawsuits against the tobacco industry.

“The success of the national lawsuit was an important first step in the battle to reduce America’s addiction to cigarettes,” said Moore. “There’s more work to be done. An estimated one in five youths identify themselves as frequent smokers. It’s clear we need to continue to develop innovative ways to reduce that terrifying number.”

In previous focus-group discussions with youth, the Seattle-King County Public Health Department reported learning that:

• Reasons for smoking include rebellion and peer pressure, addiction, inconsistent adult behaviors and family members who smoke

• Many youth feel it is acceptable to begin smoking at 14 and 15 years old.

• Smoking, when compared to use of other drugs, is the lesser of the evils and that this message is reinforced by adults.

“As a society we have made great progress in reducing tobacco’s impact on our community, and now we must take our tobacco prevention and health promotion activities to a new level, especially with youth,” said County Executive Ron Sims.

More information on the conference is available at www.accessseattle2006.org.

Conference sponsors included the county and Washington health departments, the state Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, and the 7-11 Franchise Owners Association.

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