Report: Smoking down among Virginia high school students

no-smoking-headerVirginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dr. Bill Hazel and the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY) announced Thursday that youth smoking rates in Virginia have plummeted to the lowest point in a decade.

The percentage of high school students in Virginia who are regular smokers has declined by more than 55 percent – from 28.6 percent in 2001 to 13 percent in 2011, according to the results of the latest Virginia Youth Tobacco Survey. Nationally, an estimated 18.1 percent of high school students are regular cigarette smokers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS).

Smoking among Virginia middle school students declined by more than 70 percent during the same period, from 10.6 percent in 2001 to 3 percent in 2011.

Secretary Hazel made the announcement during VFHY’s fourth annual Virginia Healthy Youth Day celebration on the grounds of the Virginia State Capitol, where more than 450 area school children gathered for a celebration of healthy lifestyles.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell praised the milestone achievement, saying, “The Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth and Secretary Hazel should be commended for their excellent work in reducing youth smoking rates and improving public health. Instilling the values of a healthy lifestyle in the next generation is incredibly important and I applaud Secretary Hazel, the VFHY and all those involved in this significant effort.”

“The Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth has made remarkable achievements in its efforts to keep kids from smoking in the past 10 years,” Secretary Hazel said.  “We have made great strides in lowering the rate of youth smokers and I look forward to continuing our work with VAFHY and building on our success.”


“We are thrilled that tobacco use among Virginia’s youth continues to be on the decline,” said VFHY Executive Director Marty Kilgore. “The Virginia Youth Tobacco Survey results show that tobacco prevention works, and that Virginia’s kids are choosing healthy lifestyles. However, because new students are constantly reaching the at-risk age for becoming regular smokers, we must remain vigilant.”

More than 2,600 public middle school and high school students were surveyed during 2011 for this biennial statewide study. Students were asked about topics including their tobacco use; accessibility of tobacco products; attitudes toward tobacco use and advertising; and other factors such as secondhand smoke exposure.

The Virginia Youth Tobacco Survey is conducted in cooperation with Virginia Commonwealth University’s Survey and Evaluation Research Laboratory (SERL) and Community Health Research Initiative (CHRI).

About the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth

Established by the Virginia General Assembly in 1999, the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth is responsible for statewide efforts to prevent and reduce youth tobacco use and childhood obesity. Since the Foundation began its work in 2001, high school smoking in Virginia has been cut more than in half and the number of middle school smokers has dropped by more than 70 percent.

The Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth directly reaches more than 50,000 children each year through classroom-based prevention programs in public schools, after-school programs, community centers, daycares and prevention programs across the state. VFHY’s award-winning marketing campaign delivers prevention messages to more than 500,000 children annually through TV and radio ads and Internet content. For more information, visit


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