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Tobacco use among youth on the rise
• In 2010, 36.8 percent of high school students had smoked a cigarette by 13 or 14 years of age, an increase from 34.4 percent of high school students in 2008.
• Illegal tobacco sales to minors rose to 8.7 percent from 5.6 percent in 2011.
• Nontraditional stores such as doughnut shops, discount stores, delis, meat or produce markets had the largest percentage of illegal sales at 20.3 percent, up 10.5 percent from 2011.
• Smokesless help line: 1-800-N0-BUTTS.
• Nearly one-third, 32.3 percent, of California stores that sell tobacco had at least one cigarette advertisement less than 3 feet above the floor, where it is easily seen by children.
Source: State Health Officer's Report on Tobacco Use and Promotion in California
Illegal sales of tobacco products to minors increased for the first time in three years in California, and the number of high school students who said they have had a cigarette jumped by nearly 37 percent in recent years.
Still, fewer California teens smoke than in virtually all other states, but the use of smokeless and other nicotine products are on the rise.
Nearly 4 percent of all teens in California used smokeless tobacco in 2010, an increase from just over 3 percent in 2004, the state reported.
In Glenn County, the percentage of youth (ages 12-18) who report using smokeless tobacco products is 6.7 percent, compared to the 3.9 percent statewide, which is similar to Colusa County's figures.
Glenn County's smoking rate for youth is 10.8 percent compared to the statewide average of 13.8 percent.
Rural areas tend to have higher smokeless tobacco rates than urban areas, according to Sharon Lazorko, a tobacco education coordinator with Glenn County's Health Services.
Lazorko said she presents educational seminars on the hazards of all tobacco products as both smokeless tobacco and cigarettes are dangerous to people's health.
Dr. Ron Chapman, director of California Department of Public Health and the state health offi cer, stated in his Report on Tobacco Use and Promotion in California, that the key to halting deaths and diseases related to tobacoo use was "protecting young people from the infl uence of tobacco product marketing."
The report was released Dec. 13.
"Smoking kills more people than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined. It is projected that adult tobacco-related health care expenditures will cost California $6.5 billion this year, which equates to about $400 per taxpayer," Chapman wrote as a preface to the report.
He noted he was particularly concerned with the illegal sales of tobacco, and noted a US Surgeon General report that concludes that "for each smoker who dies — more than 1,200 each day — at least two youth or young adults become regular smokers."
The state makes a strong link to the increase of tobacco use among teens to the number of places selling the products, and where those outlets are located.
There are about 36,700 licensed tobacco retail stores in California — one for every 254 children — and the number of places selling smokeless tobacco has increased from less than 1 percent in 2008 to 39.5 percent in 2011.
"Prevalence of smoking was higher at schools in neighborhoods with fi ve or more stores that sell tobacco than at schools in neighborhoods without any stores that sell tobacco," the report states.
The 2012 Youth Tobacco Purchase Survey shows that 8.7 perecnt of retail shops sold tobacco to minors.
That is significantly lower than 37 percent reported in 1995, but up from 5.6 percent in 2011 and 7.7 percent in 2010, the state reported.
The survey reflects all retail shops that sell tobacco products.
Only one of the 31 retailers who sell tobacco in Colusa County agreed to sell tobacco to under-aged decoys in the survey conducted in November.
However, Glenn County retailers in the Orland areas selling to youth seem to be going up, Lazorko said.
"It is concerning," she said. "The current (illegal sales) rate statewide was 8.5 percent in 2012 which is up from 5.6 percent in 2011."
Orland's sales to minors actually have been rising the past 12 years, she said, which also is not good - particularly since it has not dipped below 20 percent in compliance checks.
In 2011, 40 percent or four out of 10 Orland stores checked sold to minors, Lazorko said. it was 20 percent in 2009, 30 percent in 2007 and 40 percent in 2000.
Willows retailers compliance did much better, she said, in a 2008 compliance check where five out of 10 stores checked had zero sales to minors. Twelve stores were surveyed in 2005 and again had zero sales.
Lazorko added many communities are now requiring tobacco retailer licenses to combat illegal sales to minors. If a store sells illegally to a minor, the license is suspended or revoked and tobacco products are pulled from their shelves. This is a tool every community should consider, she said.
"The upsurge appears to be largely due to an increase in illegal sales at non-traditional retail stores (such as) donut shops, discount stores, deli/meat markets, gift stores and produce markets that may not be fully aware of the underage sales law and penalties," the report states.
However, the same report shows that tobacco stores sold illegally to youth at the highest rate, about 20.5 percent, up from 6.5 percent in 2011.
The lowest illegal sales rate was seen at convenience stores without gas, 3 percent, and supermarkets, 3.7 percent.
The report also cites studies that show children are three times as sensitive to tobacco advertising as adults, and youth are more likely to be infl uenced by cigarette marketing than peer pressure.
"One-third of underage experimentation with smoking can be attributed to tobacco industry advertising and promotion," the report states.
"Eighty percent of underage smokers choose brands that are the top-three most heavily advertised," the report states. "...Between 1998 and 2010, tobacco industry spending on product marketing in California increased from $504.3 million to $535.7 million."
And more and more youth are being subjected to tobacco marketing online, with more than a third reporting seeing such advertizing on the Internet.
The Surgeon General reports about 4,000 chidlren across the country try smoking for the fi rst time each day.
And the economic impact is significant.
The state report estimates that Californians will pay $6.5 billion toward adult tobacco-related health care costs in 2012, more than $400 per taxpayer.