Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
April 18, 2000
TRENTON - More than 10 percent of middle school students and more than 27 percent of high school students currently smoke cigarettes, and smoking rates are much higher among students whose friends or parents smoke, according to a survey released today.
Health and Senior Services Commissioner Grant today released the results of the New Jersey Youth Tobacco Survey, which provides the most comprehensive view to date of all tobacco-product use by seventh- through twelfth-grade students.
The survey examines use patterns, as well as students' attitudes about smoking and quitting, the social forces and marketing practices that influence them, their knowledge of tobacco and access to tobacco products.
"We must do everything we can to convince young people to never start smoking or use any tobacco products," said Governor Christie Whitman. "We've committed major funding to reduce both youth and adult tobacco use."
Last fall, the UMDNJ School of Public Health surveyed 16,000 students in 164 middle and high schools across the state. It was conducted for the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. The survey provides baseline data that can be used to measure changes in attitudes and behavior after the department implements its comprehensive tobacco control program.
"More than a quarter of high school students report they smoke. Many of them say they want to quit, but don't think they can. That is a cry for help from our young people," Commissioner Grant said. The department's program will include smoking cessation programs designed especially to help young people quit smoking, she added.
"The bottom line is that to reduce the numbers of young and adult smokers, we must change the attitude that tobacco use is acceptable. Our statewide tobacco control program will work to change community attitudes statewide," Commissioner Grant said.
In next year's budget, $30 million has been set aside for a five-part tobacco control plan. This will include: an anti-tobacco media campaign aimed at young people; community-based tobacco control programs; smoking treatment programs for young people and adults; youth activities; and program evaluation and surveillance.
The Youth Tobacco Survey asked students about their use of cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco and bidis, which are small, hand-rolled imported cigarettes. Current users are those using tobacco in the 30 days prior to the survey. Some of the survey's key findings include:
"It's especially disturbing to see how relatively easy it is for young people to buy tobacco products," Commissioner Grant said. "We've dramatically increased merchants' rates of compliance with tobacco age-of-sale laws. But it only takes one vendor in a community to give young people access to tobacco products."
Currently, 82 of 115 local health departments are under contract with the department to conduct surveillance as part the effort to enforce New Jersey's age-of-sale laws. Non-compliance rates have dropped since 1995, when 84 percent of merchants were selling to minors, to only 24 percent selling to minors in 1999.