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Do they smoke or dip? Survey tracks teen smoking habits

A study may help tailor anti-smoking messages to specific groups.

White students are much more likely to smoke cigarettes or dip tobacco than their black and Hispanic classmates, but American Indian students are most likely to puff cigars, according to a survey of teen smoking habits.

New data culled from the 1999 Florida Youth Tobacco Survey provide a detailed breakdown by race and ethnicity among the state's middle and high school students. It's meant to help schools and local governments tailor anti-smoking messages to fit their populations of students.

The results, from a survey of 11,720 middle and high school students across the state, were released Thursday by the Florida Department of Health.

"It's designed to let you know what the smoking prevalences are among these populations, so locally the programs can be designed to be more effective," said Tammie Johnson, an epidemiologist in the survey research unit of the department's Bureau of Epidemiology.

"If you have area with (many) non-Hispanic blacks, the smoking prevalence may not be as high. You may want to tailor your emphasis on prevention, rather than cessation.

"If your population has higher tobacco use, you may want to pan the emphasis toward cessation."

The Florida Youth Tobacco Survey is part of the Florida Pilot Program on Tobacco Control and is used to track tobacco use and attitudes. The first data published from the 1999 survey showed that about one-third of Florida students had used tobacco within 30 days of the survey. Researchers are awaiting the results of the 2000 survey.

The findings released Thursday show that:

+ Among high school students, tobacco use ranged from 18 percent for non-Hispanic blacks to 38 percent for non-Hispanic whites to 46 percent for American Indians.

+ Among Hispanic students, tobacco use ranged from about 24 percent for Dominicans and Cubans to a high of 33 percent for Puerto Ricans and Mexican-Americans.

+ Among both middle and high school students, tobacco use was lowest among non-Hispanic black and Asian students. The use of smokeless tobacco was lowest among blacks and Hispanics. American Indians were mostly likely to smoke cigars.

A copy of the full report will be available soon on the Internet at www.state.fl.us/tobacco. Click on "research."

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