Prevention group addresses teen tobacco use

As Public Health Week 2001 begins, a recent statewide survey provided Coloradans with some unwelcome information regarding teens and smoking.

The survey, presented by the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC), collected data from students in 41 middle schools and 49 high schools throughout the state, and included a 70-question survey on tobacco use in the nation's schools.

"20,000 Colorado youths under the age of 18 years of age become daily smokers every year," said Wanda Ely, Public Health Team Leader at Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurses Association (VNA). "At this rate, 86,000 Colorado youths alive today, will die from smoking."

Ely also said that 193,000 Colorado students are exposed to environmental tobacco smoke in their homes every year.

"Tobacco use claims more lives than drugs, alcohol, sexual behavior, firearms and motor vehicles combined," she said. "Tobacco use kills, it's expensive, and it places our youth at risk."

In addition to Ely's statistics, the State Tobacco Education Prevention Partnership (STEPP) at the Department of Public Health and Environment, have also provided the following facts:

n An estimated 435,000 Americans die from tobacco-related diseases every year.

n In 1997, 18% of Colorado deaths were attributed to tobacco use.

n In Colorado, the annual health care costs directly related to smoking totaled $425 million.

n In Colorado, approximately 916,000 people smoke, with steady increases in among youth aged 18 to 24, from 1991 to 1997.

n Tobacco use among seniors is at an all-time high.

Marilyn Bouldin, Director of Community Care for the VNA, says that smoking doesn't just affect those who smoke, but others around them as well.

"It not only affects individual health, but the environment as well," she said. "It especially affects children, with an increase in ear infections, chronic asthma and bronchitis.

"Hopefully, people can realize the problem that we are facing, and that we can combat it on a local level with an active prevention and cessation program."

The VNA plans to team up with the Grand Futures Prevention Coalition (GFPC) to develop a local group that will help those battling a nicotine addiction.

"We are really hoping that we can take the lead this year against combatting tobacco use," Bouldin said. "If there is anyone who would like to participate in our efforts, they are more than welcome to give us a call."

For more information, or to get involved with the "Don't Let Our Future Go Up in Smoke" campaign, contact the VNA at 824-8233.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.