Arizona has been among the nation’s leaders in helping its residents quit using tobacco, and even better, never start using tobacco. Thanks to our dedicated staff in the Bureau of Tobacco and Chronic Disease and countless partners in communities throughout Arizona, I’m pleased to report that our commitment to success has only intensified.
In the past two years we have achieved unprecedented success and national recognition in preventing youth from using tobacco, helping adult tobacco users quit, and reducing everyone’s exposure to secondhand smoke. Our goal is to report the lowest tobacco rates in the U.S. by 2020.
Nine out of 10 adult smokers were using tobacco in their teen years, which means youth prevention is our first line of attack. Arizona’s prevention efforts revolve around STAND (Students Taking A New Direction), our statewide consortium of thirty youth coalitions representing urban, rural, border and tribal communities. Recent STAND successes include implementing smoke-free parks, hosting and moderating non-partisan mayoral candidate forums, passing a city ordinance restricting smoking in cars with minors, and increasing the minimum age for purchasing tobacco to 21. Arizona has seen a 30 percent drop in tobacco use among high school youth over the past two years, which translates to an estimated 13,000 fewer youth smokers.
Last year we launched our first-ever media campaign aimed at educating the public on the dangers of secondhand smoke. Who’s Breathing Your Secondhand Smoke featured the deadly effects of smoking in a car with a young child tucked “safely” in a child safety seat. The dramatic response by the public to this campaign was mirrored by the response of multi-housing property managers and owners to the efforts of the Arizona Smoke-Free Coalition and Arizona Multi-Housing Association to promote the economic and health-related benefits of implementing smoke-free policies in multi-housing environments.
Last October we were proud to hold Arizona’s first-ever Tobacco Policy Summit. The summit received rave reviews from over 60 key stakeholders and national experts who engaged in information exchange and dialogue on a future of tobacco control in Arizona that is characterized by a common commitment to being a tobacco-free state.
In the health and economy of Arizona, we may all pay the price of tobacco use at some level, but we also reap the benefits of living in an Arizona that is even healthier and more prosperous through smoke-free living.