Smoking rates among young people in Virginia tumbled over the past 10 years, with middle school students leading the decline in youths butting out cigarettes.
In 2001, one in ten Virginia middle school students reported they smoked regularly. According to the latest Virginia Youth Tobacco Survey, the number fell to three percent by 2012, a decrease of 70 percentage points.
"We are thrilled with the results," said Richard Foster, public affairs coordinator with the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth. "Middle school students are more willing to listen, and this is the age of experimentation for them. Data show kids often try their first cigarette around age 13."
Smoking among high school students also dropped, falling from 28.6 percent in 2001 to 13 percent in 2012. Governor Bob McDonnell attributed the decline to efforts by the VFHY, a group funded tobacco settlement money.
"We reach more than 50,000 kids with our programs in the classrooms," Foster said in an interview Friday. "Prevention classes are in schools, youth centers, and we have a national award-winning volunteer group called ‘Y Street' for high school students."
The new statistics came from the Virginia Youth Tobacco Survey, conducted in cooperation with Virginia Commonwealth University's Survey and Evaluation Research Laboratory. More than 2,600 middle and high school students across the state participated in the survey.
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