Last Modified: Friday, September 14, 2012 7:56 PM
Louisiana teenagers are using tobacco products at a rate alarmingly higher than the national average, according to a recently released study.
According to the 2011 National Youth Tobacco Survey, 38.3 percent of all high school students in Louisiana used tobacco products in 211.
Thirty-nine percent of Caucasian high school students in Louisiana and 36 percent of African American high school students were tobacco users last year.
The Caucasian high school student percentage in Louisiana is 53 percent higher than their peers and the African American percentage is nearly double the national average of their peers.
The survey also found that 15.6 percent of middle school students in Louisiana used tobacco products last year.
“The data suggests a dynamic change occurs between middle and high school,” said Iben Ricket, tobacco epidemiologist at the Chronic Disease Prevention & Control Unit of LSUHSC, School of Public Health. “This change translates into a remarkable increase in tobacco consumption between school levels. This increase is seen across multiple tobacco products and is not isolated to one particular racial group.”
Tonia Moore, associate director of Tobacco-Free Living noted the increase in tobacco use from middle school to high school.
“We are constantly working to get local communities involved in TFL’s Defy the Lies initiative, a youth movement that takes down the influence of the tobacco industry and promotes tobacco-free lifestyles, and bring awareness to the media and elected officials as to what tobacco products are being consumed and sold by our youth. The time is now to get a better handle on the large number of youth using tobacco products,’’ she said.
The study also found that African American students in Louisiana experience a higher cigar/cigarillo prevalence compared to their Caucasian counterparts. Cigars/cigarillos are the only tobacco product African Americans students consume more of than Caucasian students.
The Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living notes that tobacco companies spend billions on marketing their products and believes this advertising and promotion of the products at retail stores contributes heavily for adolescent smoking.
TFL attempts to counter that message with its own media campaign about the health hazards of long-term smoking, including various forms of cancer, heart disease and respiratory diseases.
Judging from the most recent numbers, it’s an uphill fight to convince teenage smokers that the folly of their youth can have deadly consequences in the future.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Dennis Spears, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.