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OUR VIEW: New study shows Wisconsin youth smoking drops dramatically

Public health advocates in St. Croix County have a reason to celebrate. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services released a report showing that fewer Wisconsin kids are smoking than ever before.

The 2012 Wisconsin Youth Tobacco Survey (YTS) reports that smoking among Wisconsin youth has hit an all-time low. The study, a partnership between the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Department of Public Instruction, showed a 26 percent decrease in high school rates and a 36 percent decrease in middle school rates since 2010.

High school smoking decreased from 17.7 percent in 2010 to 13.1 percent in 2012 and middle school smoking fell from 3.9 percent to 2.5 percent in the same time frame. The study took place in the spring of 2012, and included 40 high schools and 42 middle schools.

"We have come such a long way in the fight to keep our kids from heading down a path of horrible tobacco addiction," said Mary Boe, Coordinator for Western Wisconsin Working for Tobacco-Free Living (W3TFL) and member of Healthier Together-St. Croix County Tobacco Task Force. "Back in 2000, a third of high school students were current smokers, and 12 percent of middle-schoolers were also smoking. This report demonstrates remarkable progress and offers further evidence that the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program works."

Representatives from W3TFL said the decrease means that more Wisconsin youth will live longer, healthier lives and that the state will see substantial health care savings down the line. Furthermore, fewer kids smoking means fewer kids at an increased risk of developing smoking-related diseases like cancer, heart disease and pulmonary diseases.

According to projections from the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK), these numbers mean that nearly 200,000 fewer kids alive today will grow up to become addicted adult smokers. Additionally, CTFK estimates the state will save nearly $3.4 billion in health care costs, with nearly $500 million in Medicaid savings alone.

"While this report is incredibly exciting, the fight to protect our kids from tobacco's deadly grip is not over," said Boe. "The industry continues to evolve, looking for new ways to hook kids so it's more important than ever that our state continue to invest in tobacco prevention and control efforts to make sure these hard won gains are not lost and this trend of success continues."

Quick Tobacco Facts:

  • Smoking-related diseases kill nearly 7,000 Wisconsin residents each year.
  • Tobacco costs the state $4.5 billion in health care costs and lost productivity annually.
  • The tobacco industry spends $233 million annually to market its products in Wisconsin.
  • Wisconsin currently spends $5.3 million on tobacco prevention and control efforts each year.

    To view the YTS facts sheets and to learn more about Wisconsin's tobacco prevention and control efforts, go to For more on local tobacco prevention and control efforts go to To find out how to get involved with Healthier Together-St. Croix County, a collaborative effort to improve the health of St. Croix County, call (715) 246-8363.

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