2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey – Tobacco

The Centers for Disease Control has released the results of the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) which tracks youth tobacco use (among other behaviors) in grades 9-12 in the United States.  So how do Florida students compare to the national results?  Included below are the results for the YRBS and the Florida Youth Tobacco Survey (FYTS) for specific categories:

Cigarettes:                                        YRBS 2015    FYTS 2015
Ever tried cigarettes                              32.0%              22.9%
Current cigarette use                             11.0%                 6.9%
Frequent cigarette use                            3.0%                 2.5%
Daily cigarette use                                   2.0%                 N/A
Current users tried to quit                   45.0%                 N/A

Smokeless Tobacco & Cigar Use:
Current use smokeless                           7.0%                 5.0%
Current use cigars                                 10.0%                 9.3%
(cigars, cigarillos or little cigars)
Flavored smokeless                                N/A                   3.9%

Electronic Vapor Use:
Ever used                                                45.0%               37.6%
Current use                                             24.1%               15.8%
(at least 1 day during past 30 days)

As you can tell from the figures above, Florida high school students are below the national averages, and the lowest in the nation when it comes to current cigarette use (at least one use in the past 30 days).   In fact, Florida high school students are showing decreases in every category from 2014 except for electronic cigarettes which went up 5 percent.   Hookah use, which is not reported in the YRBS, is up 26.0% for Florida high school students since first reporting in 2009, but is down from the 2014 figure.

One statistic the YRBS reported is the percentage of high school students who were able to purchase “their own cigarettes by buying them in a store or gas station.”  The percent of ninth grade students able to purchase – 6.3; 10th grade – 6.1%; 11th grade – 20.2%; and 12th grade – 16.5%.  The decrease in 12th grade student percentage could be explained that many have reached the 18 year minimum age requirement to purchase tobacco products, and therefore would not be included in the report.

The FYTS does not ask how students obtain tobacco, but asked how they obtained electronic cigarette devices, and 21.9% of high school students stated they purchased them from a convenience store, supermarket or gas station.  Prior to this past year there was confusion in Florida about the minimum age to purchase these devices, but electronic cigarettes are now in line with other tobacco products.  A troubling statistic for Florida is that 7.6% of middle school students and 3.5% of high school students stated they got their e-cigarette devices from their parents, while 9.8% of middle school students and 7.7% of high school students reported giving money to someone else to make these purchases.

It is obvious the U.S. could do better in keeping tobacco products out of the hands of youth by raising the minimum tobacco age to 21 and increasing federal taxes on all tobacco and electronic nicotine products.  We just have to determine how important the health of our future generations is to us and to them.

Click HERE for the full report of the YRBSS results
Click HERE for the 2015 FYTS State Level Reports

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Florida Tobacco Prevention Training for Educators Final Numbers

The Florida Tobacco Prevention Training for Educators on-line course has officially closed for the 2015-2016 school year.  This year marks our sixth year of offering a 60 point statewide tobacco prevention course, and it also marks the first year for our 30 point course which proved popular with participants.  We thought we would share some numbers with you as we wrap up our year.

FL_map_6_13We had a total number of 786 participants registered for our two courses:  256 participants in the 30 point course and 530 in the 60 point course.  The top three groups that registered were classified as full-time teacher, guidance counselor and administrator.   Teachers were broken down by the following grade levels: elementary – 368, middle school – 156, and high school 227, with 35 participants listed as other or combination.  In the 15 categories under “primary subject,” the top five were Elementary-mixed, English/Language Arts, Science, Physical Education, and Social Studies.  The majority of our participants (690) listed their school type as public/district.

Of the 67 Florida school districts, 49 districts had at least one participant registered in one of our two courses.  The top three school districts with the most participants registered were Palm Beach – 401 registered (51% of the total participants), Dade – 143 registered (18.19% of total participants) and Florida Virtual- 29 registered.

We take into account that some of our Florida school districts are small, so we also rank registrants as to the percentage of their districts’ educators.  The top three small districts include Bradford with 6 registrants, which equaled 2.24% of their district, Taylor – 4 registrants which equaled 1.71% of their district, and Hamilton –  2 registrants equaled 1.57% of their district.  Eighteen districts had no registrants.  Jefferson County, one of the three Florida school districts with fewer then 100 educators, had one participant registered.

Of the 786 participants who enrolled in the course, 313 completed.  The fastest participant completed the course in 14 days, the slowest 306 days, with an average of 125 days.  Six school districts have the distinction of having 100% of their enrolled participants complete the course: Gadsden, Glades, Hardee, Holmes, Liberty and Orange.

While all these statistics are wonderful, and receiving either 30- or 60 in-service credits to renew your Florida Department of Education certificate is great, the reason why we continue the Florida Tobacco Prevention Training for Educators on-line course is for participants to teach tobacco prevention lessons to our Florida students.   This year our actual student impact was 22,386 students, the most of any previous year.

We are proud of our participants who completed the course and taught lessons to their students.  Whether you are computer savvy or barely know how to turn a computer on, we are here to help you through the course of your choosing.  Our 2016-2017 course pre-registration starts July 18 and our course will open August 18.   We invite you to consider taking our course to help your students make healthy decisions in their lives regarding tobacco.  See you in July!




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World No Tobacco Day 2016

WHO_plain_packaging_002According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “tobacco-related illness is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced.”  Every year WHO and World No Tobacco Day select a theme to bring attention to this issue, and this year it is plain packaging, which if implemented throughout the world, will help to reduce the “demand for tobacco products.”

Australia became the first country in the world to require all cigarettes to be sold in plain packaging in 2012, but other countries have looked at it as far back as 1989.  Although it is not yet in force, Ireland passed their Standardized Packaging of Tobacco Act in 2015, making it the first country in the European Union to require plain packaging.  France, Great Britain and Northern Ireland have also “begun implementation of plain packaging.”

Removing colors, specialized fonts, logos and brand images removes the attractiveness of the product, especially for youth.   Since the introduction of plain packaging in Australia, studies have shown that the change in packaging has “increased negative perceptions and feelings about the pack and about smoking.”  Smokers were more likely to hide the pack, reduce their smoking and increase their attempts on quitting.

In the short time since its implementation, the results of plain packaging in Australia have been impressive.  Between December 2012, when plain packaging went into effect, and September 2015, smoking fell “an additional 0.55 percentage” points, or “more than 108,000 people “quitting, not relapsing or not starting to smoke during that period.”

Imagine the worldwide health benefits if plain packaging for tobacco products was instituted.  As “more countries defy the industry’s tactics and implement plain packaging to reduce demand for tobacco products” the goal of improving the health of these countries and reducing tobacco harm is more and more within reach.

Click HERE for the World No Tobacco Day information.

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New numbers show a downward trend in smoking

A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that “cigarette smoking among adult Americans dropped to a historic low in 2015.”  Why is that important to us when the Florida Tobacco Prevention Training for Educator on-line course is designed for teaching tobacco prevention lessons to students?  Preventing youth and teens from starting smoking means fewer adults smoking in the future.

The current rate stands at 15.1 percent, down from 16.8 percent just two years ago.  When broken out between males and females, “about 16.7 percent of adult men smoke traditional cigarettes, compared with 13.6 percent of women.”  The group with the highest number of smokers are males between the ages of 18 and 44.  If you break the numbers down by race, white males smoke the most at 17.4 percent, followed by blacks at 16.8 percent and Hispanics at 9.9 percent.

Anti-smoking advocates suggest falling smoking rates have been attributed to “higher cigarette excise taxes, anti-smoking campaigns, higher retail prices, socioeconomic shifts,” as well as stricter smoking bans prohibiting indoor smoking.   Those in favor of electronic cigarettes and vaporizers, as well as hookahs, suggest their popularity has helped the downward turn of traditional tobacco.  The U.K. Royal College of Physicians have gone on record stating electronic cigarettes and vaporizers could be up to 95 percent less harmful to smokers, while the “CDC and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force have found there is not enough evidence to conclude whether e-cigarettes are a safe and effective smoking cessation device.”

You would think with these falling numbers we would see concern from the tobacco industry of the possibility of them going out of business, but unfortunately that is not the case.  The top three companies “continue to show quarterly and annual revenue gains” despite falling numbers.

“The Healthy People 2020 initiative has set a goal of reducing the adult smoking rate to at least 12 percent.”   If statewide tobacco prevention programs, such as the Florida Tobacco Prevention Training for Educators, continue to reach youth and teens so they can learn to make informed decisions about tobacco use, the future goal of a lower number of adult smokers is well within reach.

Click HERE for the entire article.




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Finally, FDA oversight on e-cigs and all tobacco

In 2009 The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act was signed into law, giving the “FDA authority to regulate the manufacture, distribution, and marketing of tobacco products.”  The law, commonly known as the Tobacco Control Act, placed restrictions on “marketing tobacco products to children” and gave the FDA authority to ban sales to minors as well as provide other restrictions.  In 2014 the FDA announced new regulations “to gain regulatory authority over tobacco products not yet regulated by the FDA,” including electronic cigarettes.

Now, a proposed ruling two years in the making will finally go into effect starting August 8, 2016, banning the sale of “e-cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco and hookah e-cig2tobacco to people under age 18.”  This new rule brings the above tobacco/nicotine products in line with the rules for cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco.

The tobacco companies will be required “to submit these products to it (FDA) for regulatory review.”  The FDA will also require the list of ingredients in these products, with a “staggered review period.”  Health warnings will also need to be placed on packages and in advertisements.  In addition to reviewing the ingredients in tobacco products, the FDA will have authority to: “review new tobacco products not yet on the market; help prevent misleading claims by tobacco product manufacturers; and communicate the potential risks of tobacco products.”

While the new ruling stops teens from purchasing electronic cigarettes, it falls short.  It does not stop the marketing to youth “or the use of sweet e-cigarette flavors such as gummy bear and cotton candy.”  Even research conducted by the FDA stated that those youth “who had ever experimented with tobacco started with a flavored product, including 81% of youth who had ever used e-cigarettes.”  This ruling also doesn’t prevent “online sales of e-cigarettes and refill liquids to youth.”

While the FDA is trying to protect youth from addictive products, they are being cigarsblackmailed by “two provisions recently approved as part of the House appropriations bill that funds the FDA” which may take some of that control back unless the FDA “exempts certain cigars”.  The bill will also “limit FDA review of e-cigarettes and cigars already on the market, including the many candy-flavored products” youth are drawn to.  The question is why is Congress putting special interests ahead of public health, especially the future health of youth, by once again limiting the authority of the FDA?

Click HERE to read the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids article, and HERE to read the FDA link on this subject.


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Earth Day 2016

“Earth Day is more than just a single day,” according to the Earth Day website.  The movement that started in 1970 is still going strong and growing.   This year’s theme is “Trees for the Earth,” and it is very fitting considering the amount of deforestation that takes place every year.   Deforestation “increases the atmospheric level of carbon dioxide,  deforestationbut also affects the environment by inhibiting water recycling, triggering severe flooding, aquifer depletion, soil degradation and the extinction of plant and animal species.”   You may not think of tobacco when you think of deforestation, but the industry is known for massive amounts of deforestation.

In poorer, third-world countries trees are cut down to make way for tobacco farming, with more wood being needed to dry out and cure the picked tobacco leaves.  According to the World Health Organization, “an average of 7.8kg of wood is needed to cure 1kg of tobacco,” or stated another way, “5.7lbs of wood to make one pack of cigarettes.”  The site ydouthink.com states “35 countries are now facing environmental crises” due to tobacco production in their county with the percentage of deforestation ranging from 12% in South Africa, to 45% in the Republic of Korea.

photo from Wikimedia Commons

photo from Wikimedia Commons

If the trees are not being used to dry tobacco leaves, then they are being used to make paper for a cigarette.  One site suggests “modern cigarette manufacturing machines use six kilometers of paper per hour.” If a cigarette plant is running 24 hours a day, that’s 144 kilometers or about 89.48 miles worth of paper, the distance from Jupiter, Fl down to Miami, FL.

Deforestation is not the only environmental problem due to cigarette production. Erosion from the loss of these trees also strips the land of valuable soil.  Huge amounts of pesticides are needed during the tobacco growing process and the chemical run off contaminates the water supplies.  Growing tobacco strips the soil of nutrients needed to grow other crops “leaving soil in poor condition for essential food and cash crops.”  And then there is the “1.69 million pounds of toxic litter” each year from cigarette butts, the most littered item in the world.

If you won’t give up smoking for your health, at least consider giving it up for the environment.  Our planet Earth will be grateful.

Click HERE for Earth Day information.

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The data doesn’t lie: reason for raising the smoking age

Here in the United States, laws are in place to keep youth under the age of 18 from purchasing cigarettes.  However, those laws do not seem to deter youth from getting and using tobacco at an early age.  Considering tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, “teen and young adult smoking remains a public health concern.”

NSDUHAs you can see in the chart on the left, cigarette use more than doubles in the 18 to 20 age group, when tobacco sales are first legal, compared to the 16 or 17 year old age group.   About 1 in 4 young adults (24.0%) smoke once they hit legal age, versus 1 in 10 smokers (10.2%) in the 16 or 17 age bracket. And when compared to the 16 or 17 year age group, those in the 21 to 25 year old group have seen their cigarette use triple.  The 2014 Surgeon General’s Report  states”the majority (88%) started smoking before 18 years of age, and nearly all first use of cigarettes occur before 26 years of age,” and the chart bares this out.

Currently, high school students who turn 18 can legally purchase tobacco, and many are also purchasing for younger siblings, peers and friends.  Raising the tobacco age to 21 across the U.S. would have a huge impact on youth smoking, especially in the 18 to 20 year age group,  It would also decrease numbers for the next age group of 21 to 25 year olds, which currently has the highest cigarette use.  While it may take years to see decreases in other age groups, they would also come down over time.

In addition to raising the tobacco age to 21, increasing the number of tobacco prevention classes taught in U.S. school would also decrease the number of long-term smokers. Florida, with our Tobacco Prevention Training for Educators training program, is a prime example of how effective tobacco prevention education can be.  Educators in Florida are encouraged to take our course for professional development points, earning up to 60 points toward their teacher certificate renewal, which is up to half of their professional development requirements during any 5-year renewal period.  So far this past year alone, over 7,000 Florida students in K-12 have been directly impacted from teacher training lessons generated from our two online training courses.  These tobacco prevention training lessons have paid off as Florida has one of the lowest current cigarette use by high school students in the nation at 6.9%.

Click HERE for the SAMHSA link of The CBHSQ Report.  Chart from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.






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Allowing the fox to guard the hen house

The tobacco industry has been accused of marketing to youth over the years, and rightly so. Now the electronic cigarette market can be put in the same category.  While cigarette companies must have a 21+ age to enter their sites, mandated as part of the 1998 Master marlboro_001Settlement Agreement, e-cigarette companies are less stringent, allowing youth easy access to their products.  A group of researchers looked at “12 e-cigarette companies and their 19 brands” to see what information was required in order for users to enter their sites, and found the information required to be lacking in comparison to cigarette companies.

In order to access cigarette companies websites, users must verify they are legal age (21+) by supplying information such as name, address, date of birth, and the last four digits of their social security number to be admitted.  Of the 19 e-cigarette brands, “2 had no gate, 5 stated warnings, 10 required click/checks, 1 required birthdate, and 1 required registration.”  Even within a company, different brands had different requirements.

markten“Despite strong claims of corporate social responsibility against marketing to adolescents,” electronic cigarette companies are taking an old page from tobacco and promoting their products to adolescents before regulations are imposed.   For example Altria has a corporate responsibly statement that claims it “connects with adult tobacco consumers through direct mail and websites,” but their MarkTen electronic cigarette website allows anyone in by simply clicking a button stating they are 21 years or old, with no check of their age.  Altria is not alone; Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco electronic cigarette sites operate much the same way.

Unfortunately, age-verification requirements will not be required until the Food and Drug Administration has authority over e-cigarettes.   Until then tobacco companies will continue to beat their corporate responsibility drum while continuing to allow adolescents in through the front door.  Profits once again win over what is morally and ethically right.

Click HERE for the article.

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Common sense needed to protect youth

More and more states are looking to raise the tobacco age to 21 and a few have already done so.  Hawaii raised the age on both traditional tobacco and electronic cigarettes back on January 1 of this year and the reason was simple, keeping tobacco out of the hands of youth may “keep them from developing an unhealthy addiction” to nicotine.

e-cig_002California has just approved a bill that not only raises the smoking age to 21, but will also “treat electronic cigarettes the same as their dangerous smoke-based brethren,” and it is not sitting pretty with some, namely the pro electronic cigarette people.  According the article “vaping can be an enjoyable means to get a nicotine fix” and therein lies the problem.  The article states that recent declines in smoking are due to the use of electronic cigarettes,” but they fail to mention the huge increases in youth use of e-cigarettes. especially those who haven’t smoked cigarettes before.  According to scientific evidence, “teenage brains are wired to get easily hooked on tobacco” which has nicotine, but so do the majority of the e-liquids used in e-cigarettes or vaporizers, with some levels much higher than traditional cigarettes.

But it doesn’t matter, because according to the article and pro e-cig proponents, “current evidence suggests the health risks are small” for e-cigs, right up there with “living and breathing.”  The article also failed to mention the nine chemicals in the California Prop 65 list of carcinogens and reproductive toxins found so far in e-cigarettes.

Of course, the article also suggests that this bill tramples “on the rights of adults.”  The new law would not stop any legal-aged adult from using e-cigs.   It just matches the current legal age for purchasing adult beverages in the state.

The California lawmakers did make one concession since the state has such a high military presence, “legislators exempted members of the military from the boosted purchase-age rules.”  It appears that in the minds of the lawmakers, if they are old enough to serve in the military, they shouldn’t be stopped from developing a life-long addiction to nicotine, like a large majority of military before them.

One article did suggest these new laws go too far in California’s attempt to “stand up to the tobacco industry.”  Isn’t it about time public health comes first over tobacco industry profits?  After all, will the tobacco industry be there for you when their products, whether tobacco or liquid nicotine, cause you harm?

Click HERE for the Rstreet.org article and HERE for the LA Times opinion.



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Gallup Says: Majority of U.S. Favor E-Cig Regulations

According to a new Gallup poll, most U.S. adults favor some type of regulation when it comes to electronic cigarettes, with “the prevailing opinion” that both tobacco and electronic cigarettes should be regulated similarly.   The information comes from a phone survey conducted this past December of a random sample of 13,648 adults, living in all 50 states and D.C.

e-cigpic_001When it came to regulation, 60 percent said “e-cigarettes should be regulated as much as  tobacco cigarettes,” with another 19 percent saying it should be regulated “but not as much as regular cigarettes.”  An additional 17 percent said “they should not be regulated at all.”

The electronic cigarette industry has repeatedly stated the products carry no harm, but half of U.S. adults believe they are harmful to public health, according to the Gallup poll.  Only 14 percent said they are helpful.  Of course if you are a cigarette smoker or have tried e-cigarettes, you would probably be in the 28 percent who said the devices have no effect on public health.

When it came to harming the environment, it is split equally with 40 percent saying “e-cigarettes are harmful to the environment” and 40 percent saying it has no impact.  Eleven percent believe they help the environment.   Of course those who are “current tobacco smokers and those who have tried e-cigarettes say they have no impact on the environment.”  I guess neither group has ever participated in a tobacco and e-cigarette litter pick up on a beach.

While the majority of U.S. adults “believe cigarette smoking should be illegal in all public places,” about 48 percent believe e-cigarettes should be totally banned from restaurants with about 29 percent believing they should be banned from public parks.

The results of this Gallup poll and another poll conducted by National Public Radio, are about even when it comes to Americans wanting regulations on electronic cigarettes.  The Food and Drug Administration sent the regulations to the White House for review on October 19, and the White House can make changes to the rules as they see fit.  The e-cigarette industry may have a tough sell to go easy on e-cig regulations if this poll is any indication.  After all, the will of the people have spoken.

Click HERE for entire story.

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