We’re seeing a downward trend in Arizona with youth tobacco prevalence that is similar to the national trend , according to the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System survey. The percentage of Arizona’s high school youth who have ever tried smoking has decreased from 46.5 percent in 2011 to 37 percent in 2015, a decrease of almost 20 percent. When we look at the youth who are current smokers, the numbers are even more impressive. Youth smoking dropped from 17.4 percent in 2011 to 10.1 percent in 2015, which is a decrease of more than 40 percent. Current smokeless tobacco user and current cigar user rates are dropping as well, with a decrease of almost 13 percent and 36 percent respectively.
Arizona has been hard at work in the past few years, building local youth coalition efforts. Students Taking A New Direction (STAND) is Arizona’s anti-tobacco youth coalition effort. STAND members speak to their peers and other community members about the dangers of tobacco and work to enact local policies that protect their communities from secondhand smoke. There are currently 30 coalitions across Arizona’s 14 counties, and with tobacco rates dropping the coalition efforts are really paying off.
Arizona is also working to launch new media efforts in the fall that are geared towards helping younger smokers quit, and providing education about the dangers of electronic cigarettes.
Almost 50 percent of youth smokers in Arizona reported trying to quit in the past 12 months, and we want to be sure all smokers have access to the help they need. The Arizona Smokers’ Helpline (ASHLine) is refining coaching protocols how to help youth quit smoking and is developing technology-driven ways to reach this audience, such as text-based coaching. With youth coalitions on the prevention side of tobacco control and the ASHLine working on cessation activities, we have high hopes that the tobacco rates will continue falling.