RICHMOND, Va. — A statewide effort to reduce smoking among Virginia youths is paying off as high school and middle school rates have fallen to their lowest levels in a decade, a report released Thursday shows.

The number of middle school students who smoke regularly declined 70 percent, from 10.6 percent in 2001 to 3 percent during the 2011-2012 years, the Virginia Youth Tobacco Survey shows.

During the same period, the smoking rate for high school students dropped from 28.6 percent to 13 percent, a decline of more than 55 percent.

The national smoking rate for high school students is an estimated 18.1 percent, according to the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The state study surveyed more than 2,600 public middle school and high school students on their tobacco use, attitudes toward tobacco use and advertising, accessibility of tobacco products and other topics. It was conducted in cooperation with Virginia Commonwealth University’s Survey and Evaluation Research Laboratory.

Gov. Bob McDonnell and Health and Human Resources Secretary Dr. Bill Hazel attributed Virginia’s declining rates to efforts by the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth to reduce youth smoking.

“The Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth has made remarkable achievements in its efforts to keep kids from smoking in the past 10 years,” Hazel said in a news release.

Marty Kilgore, the foundation’s executive director, said the survey’s findings show that tobacco prevention works, and that Virginia youths are choosing healthy lifestyles. But he said tobacco prevention must continue because new students are constantly reaching the age where they are at risk for becoming regular smokers.

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(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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