Fewer young people in Wisconsin are smoking tobacco. The latest state public health statistics show a significant drop in the number of smokers among middle and high school students.
The annual Wisconsin Youth Tobacco Survey gathered data this past spring from students in 40 high schools and 42 middle schools. The results found a 26 percent decline in the number of high school smokers over the past two years and 36 percent drop in smoking among middle schoolers. Karen McKeown is the director of the state Division of Public Health. She says there's no guarantee that any of those non-smoking teenagers won't take up the habit, but there's good data to suggest most won't, "Seventy percent of smokers start before they're 18 so we do feel that this is a huge area for impacting this that if we can keep people from starting during that age it may get the past the critical point."
McKeown says the survey also found that almost 90 percent of high schoolers say they believe tobacco products are dangerous and an equal number classify smoking as "not cool". She says there's no way to determine exactly how teens arrive at those beliefs and attitudes. She credits a wide range of educational efforts by both public and private health organizations, "If I knew that one single one was effective and could do it all I would certainly endorse it. But I think the secret is the partnership and collaboration."
Despite this drop in young people smoking the 2010 Burden of Tobacco report found that 7,000 state residents die each year from illnesses directly related to smoking. And smokers are responsible for $4.5 billion dollars a year in health care costs and lost productivity.