DENVER–The largest tobacco surveys ever conducted in Colorado have found alarming smoking rates among young people. The surveys also found that fewer than one in five adults is still smoking.
“This is really a good-news, bad-news story,” says Arnold Levinson, who directed the study for the University of Colorado’s Colorado Tobacco Research Program. “Once we reach age 25, Coloradans overwhelmingly reject cigarettes in their lives. What’s troubling is a surge in smoking among young adults and a persistent problem among teens and pre-teens.”
The Colorado Tobacco Attitudes and Behaviors Surveys (TABS) was set in motion by the Colorado General Assembly in 2000 to begin tracking tobacco use more closely as the state increases resources to prevent and reduce use.
During 2001, TABS interviewed more than 13,000 adults and collected questionnaires from more than 16,000 students in 6th to 12th grades.
“This is another means by which CU is working collaboratively with the state for the betterment of our citizens,” said CU System President Elizabeth Hoffman. “With this partnership, Colorado is able to tap into the state’s collective academic power to help reverse some of these alarming statistics.”
A report released today (Thursday, June 27, 2002) describes adult smoking and quitting in detail. Future reports will address youth cigarette smoking and access to cigarettes, Coloradans’ use of other tobacco products, and Coloradans’ exposure to secondhand smoke.
“One of the reasons I wanted to have these funds expended in this manner,” says Senator Norma Anderson, “is that I believe we need to get a baseline study in place first, and then measure how we are doing over an extended period of time. This we have accomplished and now we can move forward.”
According to Jack O. Burns, vice president of academic affairs and research at CU, “This data serves as a snapshot for tobacco control in Colorado. It will provide us with a measure of how effective our tobacco control programs are in the state.”
The State Tobacco Education and Prevention Partnership (STEPP), a program of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, will use the TABS data to guide the development of programs aimed at tobacco use reduction in Colorado.
“Few things are more damaging to the health of the residents of this state than tobacco use,” says Ned Calonge, M.D., the state’s chief medical officer. As a physician, I believe we must do everything we can to help Coloradans quit smoking or, better yet, to convince them to never start. These data will be very helpful in achieving both of those goals.”
A second set of TABS data will be collected in 2004, enabling STEPP to evaluate the state’s progress in reducing tobacco use initiation among Colorado’s youth, increasing tobacco cessation among Colorado’s youth and adults, and reducing Coloradans’ exposure to secondhand smoke.
The surveys examined a wide variety of tobacco-related topics, including quitting and cutting down, exposure to cigarette smoke, attitudes toward policies, and compliance with policies.
Noteworthy survey findings among public school students include these:
· Half the current smokers in middle and high school say they smoke at school, a violation of state law.
· Nearly three-fifths (59.4%) of underage cigarette buyers in Colorado say they weren’t asked to show proof of age.
· Almost one in five 12th grade boys (18%) uses smokeless tobacco.
· Marlboro is the usual brand of more than half of underage smokers; Camel is the usual brand of one-fourth of underage smokers.
· By 6th grade, nearly one-third (31%) of Hispanic public school students have tried cigarettes – more than double the percentage among non-Hispanic 6th grade students.
· Nearly half (45%) of Colorado middle and high school students have a parent or older sibling who smokes, and 38% live with someone who smokes.
· Black and Hispanic students are less likely than white students to say they received school lessons about the health risks of smoking.
Among adults, notable findings include the following:
· Fewer than one in five is a current cigarette smoker, the lowest level since the
U.S. cigarette-smoking epidemic began.
· Nearly one-third of Coloradans ages 19-25 say they currently smoke cigarettes, a much higher percentage than the state average.
· Nearly 90 percent of nonsmoker households have banned smoking in the home – and so have two-thirds of households with one or more adult smokers.
· More than three-fourths of nonsmoker households have banned smoking in their vehicles – and so have half of households with one or more adult smokers.
· When we go out to eat, fewer than 10 percent of Coloradans ask to sit in the smoking section.
· Current smoking is equally common among white, Hispanic, and black Coloradans and among men and women.
· Current smoking is most common in Denver and least common in suburban counties.
· Almost half of Colorado adults who started but did not complete high school are current
(A pdf version of the report can be found on the STEPP Web site: www.cdphe.state.co.us/pp/tobacco/ )
The sponsor of this survey, the Colorado Tobacco Research Program (CTRP), was created as part of Senate Bill 00-071, which determined how Colorado’s share of the national tobacco settlement funds ($2.9 billion over the next 30 years) would be spent. Administered by the University of Colorado, the mission of CTRP is to support research that reduces the human and economic costs of tobacco and substance abuse in Colorado. By funding independent research projects in social and behavioral sciences, biomedical sciences, and public health and policy, CTRP directly addresses the mental health, educational, prevention and disease-related needs caused by tobacco use.
The University of Colorado is a four-campus system with three general campuses in Boulder, Denver, and Colorado Springs, and a Health Sciences Center campus located in Denver and at the former Fitzsimons Army Base in Aurora. For further information, please contact Bob Nero or Michele McKinney in the CU System Office of Institutional Relations at 303.492.6206.