A 2002 survey released by the Division of Public Health on Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2003, indicates double-digit decreases in the number of youths in the state using tobacco products.
The Division's Delaware Youth Tobacco Survey says the decline in smoking is especially noticeable among middle school students, who showed a 63 percent decrease in tobacco use.
The survey of 5,296 students in grades 6 through 12 shows decreasing usage and a strong awareness of the hazzards of tobacco use among Delaware youths aged 11 to 18. The survey is conducted every other year.
From the 2000 survey to the 2002 survey, there was a 63 percent decrease in middle school students who reported smoking a whole cigarette before age 11. Only 10 percent in the 2002 survey said they had smoked a whole cigarette compared to 27 percent in the 2000 survey.
Middle school students also reported a 23 percent decrease in ever trying a cigarette, from 44 percent in 2000 to 34 percent in 2002. High school students reported a 3 percent decrease in the number of students who had ever tried a cigarette.
Middle school students also showed the biggest decrease in smoking in the past 30 days, with 11 percent reporting to have smoked in the past 30 days in 2002 compared to 15 percent in 2002. For high school students, the figures dropped from 27 percent in 2000 to 26 percent in 2002.
On the negative side, the survey found that students facing knowledge and social barriers tend to smoke more than other students.
Three of four middle school students who do smoke live with someone who smokes, representing an 8 percent increase from the 2000 survey. That rate increased 5 percent for high school students.
Middle school students who smoke are also twice as likely than their non-smoking peers to think smoking a few cigarettes a day isn't harmful. In addition, 31 percent of those who smoke think it's safe to smoke for several years and quit, versus 9 percent of their non-smoking peers who believe that to be true.
The division credits the decrease to its initiatives to educate young people about the hazzards of tobacco use. The division said the survey showed that most Delaware students know smoking is addictive and believe it is a health risk to smoke for only a year or two. Most students also believe that second-hand smoke is harmful.
DPH's initiatives include cessation services for adults in addition to the youth awareness programs. The programs teach refusal skills, support development of leadership skills among teens, facilitate youth tobacco prevention organizations, and provide cessation programs designed for teens. Sussex Tech is among the schools participating.
The survey was conducted by the Center for Drug and Alcohol Studies at the University of Delaware. The full report is available at http://www.state.de.us/drugfree.