Teen smoking continues to declineby Tom Weber, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — State health officials say the rate of underage tobacco use continues to decline. The Minnesota Department of Health today announced results of the 2008 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey.
It showed that over the past three years, the number of middle school students who used tobacco products fell from 9.5 percent to just under 7 percent.
The rate of high school students using tobacco fell from around 29 to 27 percent.
Officials say the numbers mean that 12,000 fewer high school and middle school students are using tobacco today than in 2005.
Department researcher Pete Rode says a higher tobacco tax a few years ago and the state's new smoking ban have helped push teen smoking rates down.
"That kind of really public, community statement about tobacco use can have an effect on youth," Rode said. "It's been shown to really point out that the community is really serious about the dangers of tobacco use, and it's just not acceptable or cool anymore."
But Rode also says the survey found areas where the state can ramp up efforts. For one, the use of menthol cigarettes is way up.
"The right amounts of menthol have the effect of cutting or reducing the harshness of tobacco smoke," he said. "It makes it easier for new smokers to get started, and not just turn away and reject smoking because of the harshness of the smoke."
Rode also says smoking rates among girls have plummeted, but the rate for boys has pretty much stayed the same.