Sunday, August 26, 2007

One In Four Teens - Illegal Tobacco Use

Florida Teen Smokers Steal - Make Illegal Purchases

LABELLE, FL. -- According to the Florida Department of Health, 14% of Hendry county high school students are smoking cigarettes and 7.6% of middle school students are cigarette smokers. 9.4% of middle school student smoked cigars and and 11.9% of high school students likewise. Most often the students are stealing or illegally buying in stores. Over half of all students intend at some time to become smokers.

But overall tobacco use, including all forms of tobacco use among Hendry County students, has much higher numbers with middle school student use at 14.3 percent in 2006. Overall tobacco use among Hendry County high school students was at 23.0 percent in 2006.

"Overall tobacco use" is defined as having used any form of tobacco, on one or more of the past 30 days. Any form of tobacco includes cigarettes, cigars, smokeless or chewing tobacco, and specialty tobacco such as pipe tobacco, Bidis (small brown cigarettes from India), or Kreteks more commonly known as �clove cigarettes.�

The report says "committed non-smokers" who have never smoked or intend to, are at 53.3% in middle school and 49.6% among high school students, meaning (and good news for tobacco manufacturers) that about half of all students intend to begin smoking or tobacco use sometime in the future.

So where are these kids getting their illegal smokes?

The school survey incredibly indicates that 17% of students report buying tobacco illegally in stores, while 18% said they (also illegal) gave money to someone to buy for them. Most teens, 27% say they "borrowed" them from someone else and 12% say someone "gave" them the tobacco. And also incredibly 12% say they stole from friends or relatives, and 1% admitted stealing from a store.

We suspect that the "borrowing" answer is probably overstated and the kids responding are hedging, and probably bought or stole them and were afraid to disclose it even on a confidential survey.

Florida law says 18 years old is the age to legally purchase tobacco. Tobacco retailers, including convenience stores, seem to be doing their job, checking IDs as required by law, but we wonder about that 17% who report they are able to buy in stores. Convenience stores' sell more cigarette and tobacco products than any other item, beer being second best seller. Convenience store sales of tobacco make up about 35% of their total sales items, beer about 11%. Maybe convenience stores should be renamed "Tobacco And Beer" stores?

Smokers Have More Friends?

Interestingly, the survey shows that only about one-quarter of all students thought that young smokers "were cool" or "fit in" but believed by two-thirds, was that young smokers have more friends.

About The Survey

In Hendry County, 443 middle school students and 405 high school students in 4 public schools completed the 2006 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey. The county level data and state level data are weighted to represent the entire population of Hendry County public middle and high school students. The data can be used by county health departments, school districts, and other community organizations and citizens to estimate the magnitude of youth tobacco use in Hendry County, as well as to compare tobacco use, attitudes, and related behaviors in Hendry County to those for Florida as a whole.

To see the 10-Page Teen Tobacco Report: Florida - Hendry County Teen Smoking Survey

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