WATERLOO, ON, May 31, 2012 /CNW/ - The latest national Youth Smoking Survey (YSS) reveals that in the 2010/2011 school year, 93,870 fewer Canadian youth (Grades 6-12) smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days compared with 2008/2009 data, representing a 2 per cent decline for students in Grades 6-9 (from 7 per cent to 5 per cent) and a 4.5 per cent decline for students in Grades 10-12 (from 21 per cent to 16 per cent). For the younger group, this signifies a return to the lowest rate previously seen (in 2004/2005).
The 2010/2011 YSS findings also reveal a decline in cigarillos or little cigars use. Among Grade 10-12 students, use in the past 30 days declined by a third from 14 per cent in 2008/2009 to 9 per cent. Males in these grades had a higher rate use at 11 per cent, whereas it was 6 percent among females.
The Propel Centre for Population Health Impact at the University of Waterloo conducts the Health Canada-funded biennial survey. Steve Manske, Propel senior scientist on the project, says declines in cigarillo and little cigar use are likely primarily due to federal legislation restricting flavours of cigarillos effective July 5, 2010, just prior to the survey.
"While this progress is encouraging, the fact that 9 per cent of Grade 10-12 students smoked cigarillos or little cigars in the past 30 days remains a concern, and approaches the 16 per cent who smoked cigarettes," Manske said. "The continuing popularity of cigarillos has been sustained by some tobacco companies that have placed on the market flavoured cigarillos weighing more than the 1.4-gram legal definition in federal legislation."
The May 31 YSS release coincides with World No Tobacco Day, whose 2012 theme is 'tobacco industry interference,' focused on addressing the tobacco industry's strategic attempts to challenge the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).
Manske says he also worries about students who are 'susceptible' to smoking, meaning they haven't made a firm decision to remain smoke-free in the future. This undecided group represents 625,000 Canadian youth. While this has also declined since 2008, Manske says there are few other health risks we face with numbers this large.
"It gives a glimpse of the potential magnitude of tobacco-related problems we may encounter down the road."
He says continued focus is needed to address other forms of tobacco use such as water pipes (also known as a hookah, sheesha, narghile, hubble-bubble or gouza).
According to the 2010/2011 YSS results, 4 per cent of Grade 10-12 students smoked water-pipes in the past 30 days, including 6 per cent among grade 12 students. Of the Grade 10-12 students who smoked water-pipes in the past 30 days, 41 per cent had not smoked cigarettes during that time, and 53 per cent had not yet smoked 100 cigarettes.
"The data suggest that water-pipe smoking may be another gateway to tobacco addiction among youth who are otherwise non-smokers, which is clearly of emerging concern," says Manske. He notes that water-pipe use not only increases exposure to tobacco toxins for the user, it re-opens the issue of second-hand smoke.
"The increased popularity of hookah bars that claim they only offer tobacco-free products - when this isn't always the case - takes us back to a place where exposure of smoke in restaurants is a problem despite the tobacco control community's many efforts," he said. "It puts people at risk and contributes to social acceptability, which ultimately affects smoking behaviours."
For more information about the Youth Smoking Survey, visit www.yss.uwaterloo.ca
About the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact
The Propel Centre for Population Health Impact is a collaborative enterprise that conducts research, evaluation and knowledge exchange to accelerate improvements in the health of populations. Supported by a Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute major program grant, the University of Waterloo and more than 30 grants and contracts from federal and provincial governments and non-governmental organizations, Propel's niche is relevant and rigorous science that informs policies and practice to prevent cancer and chronic disease. Propel is comprised of in-house research scientists and 45 experienced staff who work with research, policy and practice leaders across Canada and beyond.
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