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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, August 14, 2001

Youth views on smoking revealed

By Adrienne Ancheta
Advertiser Staff Writer

Ideas about smokers being cool are still prevalent among Hawai'i youths, according to the 2000 Hawai'i Youth Tobacco Survey.

More Hawai'i youths believe that cigarette smokers are cool and have more friends than the percentage of youths nationwide, according to the recent survey presented yesterday to the Board of Education.

The survey, administered to 1,045 public middle school and 1,511 public high school students here last year, is the first to document behaviors and attitudes toward tobacco.

About 21.7 percent of middle school students who never smoked think smokers have more friends, compared with 11.6 percent nationwide, and 22 percent of high school non-smokers think smokers have more friends compared with 14.3 percent nationwide.

About 9.2 percent of non-smoking middle school students think smoking is cool, while only 5.6 percent believe that nationwide, and among high school students here, 12.8 percent think smoking looks cool compared with 6.9 percent elsewhere.

"The survey is an incredibly valuable tool," said Julian Lipsher of the Department of Health Tobacco Prevention and Education Program. "It will help us fine-tune our efforts and let us know if a knowledge-based curriculum is sufficient."

Department of Health and Department of Education officials, as well as the University of Hawai'i, collaborated on the survey in their continuing efforts to prevent tobacco use in youths.

The tobacco survey released yesterday is required of states receiving money from the American Legacy Foundation, a national organization which finances programs to combat tobacco use.

While 43.5 percent of middle school students here have tried tobacco, only 33.3 percent have tried tobacco nationwide. High school students who have used any form of tobacco here are on the same level as high school students nationwide at 67.7 percent.

But for cigarette use alone, Hawai'i shows a slight drop. In 1999, 67.2 percent of high school students tried cigarettes but the number dropped to 63.3 percent in 2000. For middle school students, 2000 statistics show 38.4 percent tried cigarettes, a drop from 41.5 percent in 1999.

"There are definitely some encouraging signs in that rates have been steadily decreasing," said Dan Yahata of the Department of Education's Health/Physical Education division. "There's some positive movement but our work is far from done."

Both departments are working on promotions discouraging tobacco use including print ads and book covers. In recent weeks, they launched a new three-commercial campaign featuring youths describing smokers and the consequences of their tobacco use, such as yellow teeth and phlegm, in endearing tones.

The survey will serve as a base in comparing future surveys on attitudes and purchasing behavior. Among other findings in the survey were: more girls than boys use tobacco (27.7 percent for girls, 26.2 percent for boys), use of smokeless tobacco is up over previous years (from 2.5 percent for middle school and 2.2 percent in high school in 1999 to 2.7 and 3.4 percent in 2000, respectively).