Why people smoke is likely key to prevention

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 23, 2004

A new survey by the Minnesota Adult Tobacco Survey has found that young Minnesotans between 18 and 24 years old are twice as likely to be cigarette smokers as all other adults.

Given all the research over the years which shows just how bad smoking is for a person, this finding is particularly disturbing.

According to the survey, 39 percent of young adults in Minnesota &045; 178,000 people &045; are current smokers, including 32 percent &uot;established&uot; smokers. It is likely that 47,000 of these young adult smokers alive today will die prematurely of smoking-related diseases.

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That means many of these young adult smokers likely will become more addicted and increase their cigarette consumption as they age, driving future health costs higher. It’s estimated that tobacco-related illnesses now cost Minnesotans $1.6 billion annually.

Minnesota has developed extensive prevention, education and cessation programs since 1999, yet young people are continuing to smoke, and obviously new smokers are starting all the time.

But still, something is wrong. Why is this happening? The numbers should be decreasing. Certainly the message is out there. It almost seems as if we’re taking two steps forward and three steps back. What more can be done?

The only good news to come out of the survey is that more adult smokers are trying to break their addiction. Fifty-six percent of Minnesota adult smokers tried to quit the year preceding the survey, with the typical smoker making more than three attempts to stop smoking during that year. But quitting is difficult and addictions are tough to overcome.

Perhaps it’s time to refocus prevention efforts and to get to the root of why young people are smoking. Not starting in the first place is a lot easier than quitting.