Tuesday, August 14, 2001

Fewer isle teens
trying tobacco

A study finds students here light
up less than the national average

By Rosemarie Bernardo

The percentage of Hawaii students who tried smoking has steadily declined since 1995, although some apparently think it is glamorous, according to results of the 2000 Hawaii and 1999 National Youth Tobacco Survey.

The Committee on Student Services presented the results of the survey yesterday afternoon at the Board of Education meeting room in the Liliuokalani Building.

Based on the survey, the percentage of Hawaii's teens who have smoked at least once dropped to 63.3 percent in 2000 from 68.8 percent in 1995.

The survey compares data of Hawaii teens in 2000 to national data in 1999. Some 1,045 Hawaii public middle-school students and 1,511 high-school students were surveyed.

Agencies involved in the study included the state Department of Education, state Department of Health and the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Morris Lai, director of the Curriculum Research & Development Group at UH-Manoa, said: "Hawaii's rates have been generally lower than the nation. Not only are we improving, but we've been better than the nation on general use (of tobacco)."

The committee focused on categories of smokeless tobacco and attitudes toward teens who smoke.

Although tobacco use is declining, education and health officials are worried about some figures that indicate Hawaii teens think smoking is glamorous.

Based on the survey, 36.9 percent of Hawaii's high school students who currently smoke think young people who smoke cigarettes have more friends. That compares with 26.6 percent of students on the mainland.

Also, 12.8 percent of Hawaii's high school students who never smoked think cigarettes make young people look cool or fit in, compared with 6.9 percent of teens on the mainland.

In Hawaii a significant percentage of teens who never smoked would nevertheless wear some type of clothing with a tobacco company name or picture on it.

Some 16.3 percent of Hawaii high school students would wear such clothing, compared to 2.1 percent of high-schoolers in the nation.

The survey also showed 54.7 percent of Hawaii high school teens who do smoke would wear apparel with a tobacco logo, compared with 21 percent of teens on the mainland.

The percentage of Hawaii teens who use smokeless tobacco (chewing tobacco, snuff or dip) is less than half the percentage of mainland teens who do.

In Hawaii, according to the study, 16.3 percent of smokeless-tobacco users under the age of 18 bought smokeless tobacco in a store in the past 30 days. Nationwide, the comparable percentage is 29.9.

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