A new report issued Friday by a local health care organization shows a rise in smoking among teens in upstate New York, mirroring a nationwide trend. Meanwhile, trends that once showed a decline in adult smoking rates have begun to level off.
“This is a disturbing set of findings because of its implications for the future,” said Dr. Robert Holzhauer, vice president and chief medical officer for Univera Healthcare, which prepared a fact sheet on cigarette smoking in New York.
“Lives are shortened unnecessarily, and billions of dollars are spent to treat illnesses caused by this deadly habit,” Holzhauer added. “Those dollars could be better used to treat less preventable conditions.”
Univera’s report shows that nearly 15 percent of high school students in 2009 smoked cigarettes on at least one of 30 days prior to a survey, up from nearly 14 percent two years prior. In addition, 13.3 percent smoked more than 10 cigarettes per day over the survey period, an increase from 12.4 percent in 2007.
Smoking rates among New York state adults peak in the 18- to 24-year old demographic, at 28.7 percent.
Univera’s report also shows that approximately 815,000 adults across all of upstate — or 21.3 percent, a slight increase from previous years — are smokers, compared to 18 percent for the state and 17.9 percent for the nation. In Western New York, the rate is 20.5 percent.
Simply put, Univera’s report says “national, state and local data indicate that progress toward reduced smoking rates has stalled. Although U.S. adult smoking rates declined from 1998 to 2008, there was no significant change from 2008 to 2009.”
There is some positive news, the report says, noting that upstate New York adults are cutting back as the percentage who reported smoking every day dropped to 15 percent last year from 19.4 percent in 2000.
The report also lauds action taken to allow the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco manufacturing and marketing. It’s all in an effort to meet the objectives of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-sponsored Healthy People 2020, an initiative whose aim is to lower adult smoking rates to 12 percent.
“All of these efforts are positive steps toward lowering adult smoking to the Healthy People 2020 goal,” Univera’s Holzhauer said.
“We must make them public health priorities, encourage our state lawmakers to restore funding for New York’s tobacco control programs and do whatever else we can to promote prevention and quit smoking messages targeting young people and adults alike. Our health and the financial integrity of our health care system depend on it,” he added.