A statewide youth health survey has documented a solid reduction in teen smoking rates in the past five years.
According to the Prevention Needs Assessment, a voluntary school-based survey conducted every other year by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, smoking has declined from 27 percent to 19 percent among teenage students surveyed between 2000 and 2004.
The survey is distributed to eighth-, 10th- and 12th-grade classrooms at participating schools throughout the state.
"This is wonderful news and an important measure of progress toward reducing overall smoking rates in the state," said Linda Lee, supervisor of the DPHHS Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Program. "Every teen we are able to prevent from smoking today will become an adult who will very likely remain tobacco free."
The survey results indicate declines in smoking among both teenage boys and girls at all grade levels, in all race categories and in all parts of the state.
"The state of Montana has been operating a tobacco-use prevention program since the early 1990s," Lee said, "and the hard work of public-health partners has begun to pay dividends. It's common for public health efforts aimed at reducing tobacco use to take several years before documenting results as major shifts in an entire population's behavior may take years to observe."
State and local public health officials will gather Wednesday and Thursday in Great Falls to discuss community-based strategies for building upon the recent successes to further reduce tobacco dependence in the state.
"Beyond Marlboro Country: As the Smoke Clears" is a two-day meeting of public health professionals centered on the needs and opportunities surrounding tobacco-use prevention, according to Kimberly Koch, conference organizer and a health education specialist with the TUPP.
"This gathering of public-health professionals will serve to energize and focus our future efforts on priority tobacco-use prevention issues and opportunities including public awareness and education efforts regarding the risks of smoking and spit tobacco use," Koch said.
For more information: Linda Lee, 406-444-9617 or firstname.lastname@example.org.