Report: Tobacco use declines in Colorado youngsters, but rate of decline is slowing

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DENVER — Tobacco usage by middle and high school students in Colorado showed a downward trend from 2000 to 2011, according to a recently released report. But local officials expressed concern about the slowing rate of that trend.

The survey was conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It showed that 34.4 percent of Colorado high schoolers were using tobacco in 2000 compared to 23.2 percent in 2011, while 14.9 percent of middle schoolers used tobacco products in 2000 compared to 7.1 percent in 2011.

Compared to a decade ago, however, that rate of decline is much slower.

“Part of the reason we’re not seeing a faster decline in tobacco use among youth here in Colorado is because kids can find a variety of tobacco products that are appealing and cheap,” said Celeste Schoenthaler, tobacco program manager at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Schoenthaler stressed the CDC found some increasing usage trends when it came to smokeless tobacco products, a category that includes cigars and chewing tobacco.

The survey found high rates of cigar smoking and smokeless tobacco use among high school boys, with 15.7 percent smoking cigars and 12.9 percent using smokeless tobacco. Cigar smoking among black high school students increased significantly from 2009 to 2011, from 7.1 percent to 11.7 percent.

According to Schoenthaler’s office, the fruit and candy flavors used in some smokeless tobacco products may make them more attractive to potential middle and high school users.

According to the CDC, nearly 90 percent of people who use tobacco before the age of 18 became addicted.