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FOR RELEASE: October 16, 2000
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Teens in Other States Receive More Tobacco Prevention

Oklahoma's efforts to provide tobacco use prevention for teens do not score well in some respects compared to surrounding states. Findings released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that when compared to other states that have conducted the Youth Tobacco Survey (YTS), Oklahoma provides fewer activities to discourage youth tobacco use and Oklahoma teens begin smoking sooner.

Oklahoma lagged behind the 12 other states reporting YTS data including Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Arkansas, and Missouri on school curriculum that encourages children to practice saying “no” to tobacco use. The percentage of middle school students who have used tobacco products and who received school-based tobacco use prevention curriculum in the past year ranged from a low of 28 percent in Oklahoma to a high of 47 percent in Missouri. Only 15 percent of Oklahoma middle school students who have used tobacco products had been involved in community-based tobacco prevention activities compared to 27 percent of Texas youth.

The study also found that Oklahoma youth begin smoking at earlier ages than surrounding states. Fifteen percent of Oklahoma middle school students first used tobacco before age 11, compared to eight percent in Texas and 10 percent in Nebraska.

The purpose of the YTS is to help states design, implement and evaluate comprehensive tobacco prevention and cessation programs. The Oklahoma State Board of Health and the Oklahoma Tobacco Use Prevention Science Advisory Council have recommended the full implementation of the “four cornerstones” model for reducing tobacco use in Oklahoma. This model, based on the most successful state programs from across the nation, includes community-based activities, classroom education, counter-marketing media campaigns, and cessation assistance as a “total package” for effective tobacco use prevention.

“We have a huge tobacco problem in Oklahoma and our schools and communities still do not have the resources necessary to provide sufficient tobacco prevention activities,” said Robert Vincent, deputy commissioner of health. “The few resources that are available must be used as effectively as possible, especially given that the tobacco industry continues to market their addictive, deadly products so aggressively.”

Other significant study findings included:

  • 42 percent of Oklahoma high school students and 21 percent of Oklahoma middle school students are current tobacco users compared to 35 percent of high school students and 13 percent of middle school students nationally.
  • Half of Oklahoma youth who smoke want to completely stop smoking. Seven out of ten have tried to quit smoking at least once during the past year.
  • About three out of four (73 percent) of Oklahoma high school smokers use Marlboro cigarettes – a Philip Morris product – compared to 54 percent nationally.
  • 43 percent of Oklahoma high school students bought their last pack of cigarettes at a convenience store, compared to 30 percent nationally.

Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death, killing 6,000 Oklahomans each year. More Oklahomans are killed from tobacco use than from homicides, suicides, AIDS, alcohol, illegal drugs, and car accidents combined. Smoking costs Oklahomans over $1 billion each year, or an average of about $300 per person.

The tobacco industry spends an estimated $64 million each year marketing their products in Oklahoma. The new CDC study including the state comparisons of YTS data is available at www.cdc.gov/tobacco. The full report of the Oklahoma Youth Tobacco Survey can be viewed at www.health.state.ok.us/program/tobac.

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