Report: More teen smoking offsets/halts overall decline

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Friday, March 4, 2011 | Kat De Maria | Categories:
More young people in Upstate New York are taking up smoking. A report out Friday from Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield shows teens are offsetting the number of adults who are giving up the habit. And as our Kat De Maria tells us, that's leading to a frustrating stall in ending the smoking epidemic. SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The number of people in Upstate New York who smoke is staying the same. While that may sound like a good thing at first, the stagnation interrupts a trend of people giving up cigarettes over the last decade. "For years, the number of smokers was going down year after year after year. But over the last year or two, it's leveled off," said Dr. Arthur Vercillo, regional president of Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield. In New York State overall and across the country, smokers are down to about 18 percent of the population. As Dr. Vercillo and the report explain, though, Upstate is stuck at about 21 percent: About 24 percent in the Southern Tier, 22 percent in Central New York, the Mohawk Valley and the North Country and 20 percent in the Finger Lakes and Western New York. Vercillo says more people are working toward quitting. But in their place, more young people are lighting up. "Approximately 15 percent of high schoolers in Upstate New York have smoked a cigarette within the past 30 days. And probably about a third of those young people are regular full-time smokers," Vercillo said. The report doesn't address why more teens might be taking up smoking. But a spokesperson with the American Cancer Society says he thinks it's because of what they see when they go to stores. "Obviously, there are numerous factors involved, but the marketing is the biggest thing. It's out there. It's still making tobacco products looks like candy," said Community Mission Manager Jason Warchal. What experts hope young people will consider before they give into social pressures and go for that toxic candy is the dangers and expenses involved. "Don't take up smoking. You'll only regret it. And later on, you'll try to quit, it'll be difficult, it'll have cost you a lot of money and it could be the cause of your eventual demise," Vercillo said. For anyone who wants help with or information about quitting smoking, the experts shared some resources with us. The American Cancer Society can be reached at 1-800-227-2345 or cancer.org. The New York State Smokers' Quitline is a free resource, available at 1-866-NY-QUITS or nysmokefree.com.
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