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Teens Seems to Be Smoking Less

A survey conducted by Statistics Canada says teens are smoking less. Smoking rates among 15- to 19-year-olds declined to 15 per cent last year. The result is a substantial change from the rates of 1999, where almost 28% teens used to smoke.

The decline is "a step in the right direction," said Rob Cunningham, a policy analyst with the society.

"Higher tobacco taxes, the larger picture-based package warnings, restrictions on where people can smoke including teenagers, better education and mass media campaigns" have helped, said Cunningham.

This trend of decline is not just seen among the teens in Canada but also in different parts of the world. A study conducted in the US show that there is a steady decline from 1997. It reached record-low levels in 2002. The percentage of eighth-, 10th-, and 12th-graders who said they had ever smoked fell 4 to 5 percentage points.

In Norway too, teenagers who smoke tobacco daily has declined by half in five years to about 5 percent. The Norwegian Directorate of Social Affairs and Health began the studies of teen smoking habits in 1975, when about 15.1 percent of boys and 17 percent of girls - all between the ages of 13 and 15 - said they were regular smokers. The corresponding result for 2005 was 4.9 percent of the boys and 5 percent of the girls. The studies are done every five years.

Declines in smoking rates fell as states began cutting funding for anti-smoking campaigns to offset budget deficits.

Most worrisome to anti-smoking advocates is an expected onslaught of tobacco advertising following a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that maintained limits on such ads.

The court last month unanimously upheld a decade-old federal law setting strict limits on advertising by tobacco companies in the name of safeguarding public health.

The legislation had been challenged by three leading cigarette manufacturers: Imperial Tobacco, JTI Macdo nald, and Rothmans Benson and Hedges.

The 1997 Tobacco Act allowed cigarette makers to advertise in adult-oriented publications, in bars and pubs, and by direct mail. Internet a powerful medium for advertising will see an onslaught of tobacco advertising.

The presence of contraband at very cheap prices is undermining other measures to reduce smoking among the Canadian population as a whole," Cunningham said.

"Smoking is an addictive scourge that takes root during adolescence," said Dr. David L. Katz, an associate professor of public health, and director of the Prevention Research Center, at Yale University School of Medicine.

"Efforts to curtail the initiation of smoking in adolescence are deserving of society's strongest support, and the allocation of considerable resources," Katz said. "The trends reported here are worrisome, disturbing, and perhaps even shameful. The tobacco wars wage on, and should we become complacent now, there is no question that lives will be lost as a result."


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