This past Tuesday (9-6-2011) the Center for Disease Control released a new report on smoking among adults in the US. The results weren’t surprising really. Smoking overall has declined but not as much as the CDC had hoped. Overall, about 19.3% of adults (roughly 45 million people) in the US smoke. That is down from about 20.9% who smoked in 2005. Furthermore, the people who smoke a lot (i.e. 1.5 packs of cigarettes per day) also declined, going from 13% in 2005 to 8% in 2010. So not only are fewer people smoking but they are smoking less when they do smoke. The Courier-Journal also wrote a pretty good story on this study.
While those trends provide some good news we also know that the smoking rate would decrease much faster if teenagers and young adults didn’t start smoking in the first place. After all, if the supply of new smokers is stopped then the smoking rate would only continue to decline as a result of other attrition elements. However, this opens up a much larger question about why do kids start smoking in the first place. There are myriad opinions and thoughts about this subject and unfortunately most of the conversations never progress beyond the opinion stage.
Based on prior research we have been involved with through the Drive Cancer Out program we know that school age children exhibit strong predictive patterns around their likelihood to try smoking. Those predictive patterns center around their beliefs that:
- Kids can smoke once in a while without getting addicted or suffering any harmful effects
- People who smoke are cool
The stronger a child’s association with these two statements, the more likely that child will be to try smoking as they become older…even when they tell you that they know smoking is harmful. This becomes powerful because when we can identify these children, intervention and deterrent programs can be provided. However, without the aid of statistics to isolate the key predictive drivers of smoking then all efforts to curtail the problem become subject to opinions and whims.
If the goal is to reduce the number of smokers then the only real path to success involves understanding why people start smoking and deter them prior to the habit taking shape. Data can help make this a reality whereas opinions often only succeed in expending needless energy and precious resources.view all