Monday, October 21, 2013

2013 Herkimer County TAP: Tobacco Use Among Teens

Tobacco use by teens in Herkimer County has seen considerable declined as measured by the Herkimer County Teen Assessment Project (TAP) survey. These declines parallel national changes, and show a significant drop in the percentage of teens that have ever smoked..

In the first Herkimer County TAP survey, which was done in 1997, half of all teens (50%) said that they had ever smoked a whole cigarette. This has declined precipitously since then. By 2005 less than a third (32%) of all teens said that they had ever smoked, and in 2013 only one in six (18%) indicated that they had ever used tobacco. This decline is evident across all grade levels, suggesting that the change in behavior is widespread. The drop between 1997 and 2013 is very similar for eleventh, ninth and seventh graders - from 67% to 32% among eleventh graders; from 53% to 19% of ninth graders; and from 31% to 5% of all seventh grade students.

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Frequency of the use of tobacco however, has not changed much among those that smoke. While it is true that between 1997 and 2001 (or between the first and second times the survey was conducted) the percentage of Herkimer County youth that said that they smoked "regularly" (i.e. 10 or more days per month) declined significantly, there has been no statistical change in smoking patterns since that time. Between 1997 and 2001, the percentage of teens that smoked "regularly" fell from 40% of teen smokers to 34%. This was a statistically significant drop in the frequency of tobacco use among youth that smoke. Since 2001 however, there has been no statistical change among the percentage of "regular" users of tobacco. In 2013, the percent of teen smokers is around 31%, statistically the same as it was twelve years earlier in 2001. So while fewer teens are smoking, those that do smoking are using tobacco at a similar use level as they have in the past.

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While we have seen a drop in the percentage of teens that have ever smoked, there is one category of tobacco use that has not seen a decline in use - chewing tobacco. The use of chewing tobacco is largely a male phenomena that has held fairly steady since it was first measured among Herkimer County teens back in the 1997 TAP survey. From 1997 to 2013 about one in eight (12%) of all males have indicated that they had ever used chewing tobacco. This has been very consistent, except for 2009 when as many as 16% of males reported ever having used this tobacco product.

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To see the complete 2013 TAP report (or any of the previous reports as well), visit the Planning Department's Human Service page.