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Updated Jan 6, 2014 - 1:39 am

Tobacco use rates in Arizona continue to drop

Arizona continues to make strides in lowering tobacco prevalence rates statewide. New data shows the tobacco prevalence rate in both youth and adults dropped significantly, which will result in thousands of lives and millions of dollars saved.

The most recent figures there was an 11.5 percent decrease in adult use from 19.1 percent in 2011 to 17.1 today, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention 2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey. This translates into more than 72,000 smokers who quit. To put that in financial terms, a smoking cessation economic study by American Lung Association found that for each dollar spent on cessation services, Arizona had an average potential return on investment of $1.20.

Even more dramatic is the youth rate which fell from 17.3 percent to 14.1 percent for 2013 as reported by the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Most remarkably, there has been a nearly 30 percent drop in youth who use tobacco since 2009, when the rate was about 20 percent meaning that there are more than 110,000 fewer youth smokers today than four years ago. A 2009 University of Arizona report on the value of prevention found that preventing one 10-year-old from becoming a smoker saves the state on average $6,000 over that smoker’s lifetime.

“After years of stagnant youth prevention rates, we rebooted tobacco control efforts in 2008 by taking a step back and inviting youth to the table,” said Wayne Tormala, chief of the Arizona Department of Health Services Bureau of Tobacco and Chronic Disease. “We wanted to move away from standard approaches and do something that they would respond to; we had to change our messaging. This new approach also held true for our adult audience as well.”

For example, Arizona launched its anti-tobacco youth coalition effort, Students Taking a New Direction. Better known as STAND, it empowers teens to make positive change in their community. With assistance from Tucson based Pima Prevention Partnership, STAND has grown into more than twenty collations throughout Arizona working on initiatives such as ordinances for smokefree parks, smokefree multi-unit housing and expanding smokefree zones

On the adult side, we developed effective messaging directed at smokers ready to quit. Focus shifted from health messages and scare tactics to a direct message of a free, proven and convenient cessation resource, the Arizona Smokers’ Helpline (ASHLine).

The ASHLine also recently launched Project Quit, an initiative designed to showcase the quit process. Four participants opened up their lives to showcase what the first 30-days look like. Each participant quit with the help of the ASHLine and a form of nicotine replacement therapy. The goal was to show that while difficult, quitting is possible as well as challenge tobacco users to quit themselves.

Take a look at the story of a Project Quit participant, Diane, as she became one of the thousands of people in Arizona who quit smoking.

Ben Palmer is the Tobacco Communication Program Manager in the Bureau of Tobacco and Chronic Disease. He can be reached at (602) 364-0829.


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