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FOR RELEASE: December 19 , 2007
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

2007 Oklahoma Youth Tobacco Survey Shows Progress
More Action Needed

The number of Oklahoma youth who are either experimenting with smoking or are established smokers has declined significantly since 2002, according to data from the 2007 Oklahoma Youth Tobacco Survey (OYTS) released today by the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).

Among middle school students, the number of “experimenters” dropped from 31.5 percent or about 45,000 students in 2002 to 21.6 percent or about 31,000 students in 2007. “Experimenters” are youth who have ever tried smoking and think they might smoke again during the next year.

The number of middle school students who are “established smokers” dropped from 3.9 percent or about 5,500 students in 2002 to 2.8 percent or about 4,000 students in 2007. “Established smokers” are youth who have smoked at least 100 cigarettes since they started smoking.

Among high school students, the number of “experimenters” dropped from 40.5 percent or about 71,000 students in 2002 to 36.4 percent or about 64,000 students in 2007. Also among high school students, the number of “established smokers” dropped from 19.4 percent or about 34,000 students in 2002 to 16.7 percent or about 29,000 students in 2007.

In total, there are an estimated 15,000 fewer Oklahoma middle school students and 12,000 fewer Oklahoma high school students who are either experimenting with smoking or are established smokers than in 2002.

“This is tremendous progress,” said Secretary of Health and State Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Crutcher. “It’s likely that several factors contributed to these positive results, including the 2005 state tobacco tax increase and the growing number of prevention and cessation programs funded by the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust,” said Crutcher. “Smoke-free and tobacco-free policies have also helped to change social norms about smoking in our state.”

Crutcher continued, “This is an uphill battle and we still have a long way to go. For every $1 Oklahoma spends to reduce smoking, the tobacco industry spends over $17 to promote it. We need to dramatically reduce tobacco use among adults. We know that when more adults quit smoking, fewer youth start.”

Tobacco use is Oklahoma’s leading cause of preventable death, killing more Oklahomans each year than alcohol, illicit drugs, car accidents, homicides, AIDS, and fires combined.

The OYTS is a representative survey of all middle school and high school students in Oklahoma. The OYTS was conducted in the spring of 2007 by the OSDH, in cooperation with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Oklahoma State Department of Education, and numerous partners from local health agencies and local school districts.

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