The Big Story Blog

Anti-smoking efforts losing effectiveness among teens

Posted at 8:42 AM on December 6, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Health

Public health officials are disappointed with new findings that show there has been no significant change in tobacco usage among teenagers during the past few years, MPR News reporter Lorna Benson writes.

The Minnesota Department of Health survey shows that among high schoolers tobacco use remains stagnant, at around 26 percent.

Pete Rode of the Department's Center for Health Statistics said current tobacco trends among teens could be partly related to the lack of new policy initiatives. Messaging could be one factor. Rode said there have been no significant tobacco taxes or anti-smoking ordinances passed in the last few years. Higher tobacco taxes in particular are often associated with a drop in tobacco use.

"You can't just assume that well our positive trends are just going to continue indefinitely," Rode "You really have to work at it and bring fresh and new ideas to these new groups of young people as they're coming into those adolescent years."

The percentage of students who say they have seen or heard commercials about the dangers of smoking one or more times per week declined significantly between 2008 and 2011. Rode said.

He says it's also concerning that the use of menthol cigarettes has more than doubled among teenage smokers in the past decade.

"(Menthol) smoothes the process. It makes it less aggravating to the body. And it kind of helps you stick with it and go deeper into the addictive stages," Rode said.

About Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto writes the Big Story Blog for MPR News. He joined the newsroom in 2008 after more than 20 years reporting on education, politics and the economy for news wires and newspapers across the country.

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