UW researcher worried that youth survey finds smoking rates may have flatlined

    WATERLOO, ON, June 23 /CNW/ - The results of the latest national Youth
Smoking Survey (YSS) reveal that the percentage of young people who have tried
a tobacco product has stopped declining, suggesting the issue of tobacco
control requires continued attention in Canada.
    The 2006-07 version of the survey found that 21 per cent of youths in
grades 5 to 9, most between the ages of 10 and 14, had tried at least one
tobacco product. This result is similar to that reported in the 2004-2005 YSS,
following a decade-long decline. The original YSS, conducted in 1994, reported
that 52 percent had tried a tobacco product.
    For the first time, the latest survey included students in grades 10 to
12, 55 per cent of whom had tried tobacco. This represents the highest
percentage of survey participants in this category.
    While 48 per cent of students in grades 10 to 12 had tried cigarette
smoking, 11 per cent were classified as current smokers. For students in
grades 5 to 9, 18.5 per cent had tried cigarette smoking and two per cent were
current smokers.
    The researcher who coordinates the study for Health Canada is heartened
by the earlier decline, but concerned with the levelling off among younger
youths and the jump in tobacco use in higher grades.
    "Tobacco control continues to be an issue that we need to keep our
efforts focused on," said Steve Manske, the researcher with the Centre for
Behavioural Research and Program Evaluation (CBRPE) who coordinates the
survey. "Tobacco products that appeal to youth continue to appear on the
market, which is why continued vigilance on cancer prevention has never been
more important."
    Provincial and territorial governments in British Columbia, Nova Scotia,
Ontario and the Yukon have recently moved to ban smoking in vehicles with a
child present, while Manitoba, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are
considering similar bans. Manske applauds this move, noting that 28 per cent
of students in the YSS reported travelling in a car within a week of
completing the survey with someone who was smoking.
    "While protecting the child's lungs, the bans also remove a social
model," explained Manske, "which in effect tells the child that it's okay to
    Another factor possibly influencing the slowed decline is the increased
availability of cigarillos. Anecdotal reports of their popularity prompted
more specific YSS questions about these particular tobacco products. Data
revealed that 35 per cent of grades 10 to 12 students had tried cigars,
cigarillos or 'little cigars,' flavoured or unflavoured.
    "It is generally recognized that this young population is most at risk
for trying tobacco products," Manske said. "It's important that we understand
these trends among youth in order to develop conditions that make it easy for
them to remain smoke-free."
    The survey also found:

    -   More boys than girls have ever tried any tobacco product.

    -   Twenty-two per cent of youth reported that someone other than
        themselves smoked every day or almost every day in their homes. In
        2004-2005, 25 percent reported being exposed every day or almost
        every day.

    -   Seventy per cent of students in grades 5 to 12 reported that no one
        is allowed to smoke in their home. Ontario and British Columbia homes
        are most likely to have these rules, while New Brunswick and Quebec
        homes are least likely to ban smoking in the home.

    More information on the survey and its results can be found at:
    When it was first administered in 1994, the YSS was the largest and most
comprehensive survey of youth smoking behaviour conducted since 1979. The most
recent YSS involved 71,000 students in grades 5 to 12 in 467 schools.
    The survey is funded by Health Canada and was conducted by CBRPE and
collaborators in each province. With funds from the Canadian Cancer Society,
CBRPE is committed to preventing cancer in Canadians and to improving the
quality of life of people with cancer, cancer survivors and their families.

For further information:

For further information: Steve Manske, Scientist, UW Centre for
Behavioural Research and Program Evaluation, (519) 888-4518; Tanya Sood,
Communications, UW Centre for Behavioural Research and Program Evaluation,
(519) 888-4567 ext. 37764; Countrywide investigators: Shirley Solberg,
Memorial University (Newfoundland), (709) 777-8311; Donna Murnaghan,
University of Prince Edward Island, (902) 566-0749; Meg McCallum, Canadian
Cancer Society - Nova Scotia Division, (902) 423-5373 ext. 227; William
Morrison, University of New Brunswick, (506) 453-5114; Jennifer O'Loughlin,
University of Montreal, (514) 890-8000 ext. 15858; Jane Griffith, Cancer Care
Manitoba, (204) 787-2178; June Blau, Saskatchewan Coalition for Tobacco
Reduction, (306) 779-1216; Cam Wild, University of Alberta, (780) 492-9414;
Chris Lovato, University of British Columbia, (604) 822-9251

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