ST. PAUL (AP) -- Teen smoking is on the decline in Minnesota after a yearlong state program to discourage teens from lighting up, according to comparisons of a survey by the program Target Market to one poll taken a year ago.
"This is the first good news in a decade on youth tobacco use," said state Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. The survey results provide evidence that the state's unconventional approach is working, she said.
The survey found the percentage of teens age 12-17 who said they smoked in the past three weeks dropped 25 percent, from 16 percent to 12 percent. The new survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
It found a 22 percent decrease in the number of teens who called themselves "addicted" to tobacco. Tobacco use by Minnesota 12- to 13-year-olds dropped 33 percent.
A total of 87 percent of the 1,014 teens polled said they were aware of the Target Market program, which airs teen-inspired ads and holds events claiming that tobacco companies deliberately encourage youth to start smoking.
Rather than emphasize the health problems that stem from smoking, Target Market shows how tobacco companies advertise and otherwise attempt to persuade people to start smoking when they are young.
The program includes large trucks that carry incriminating tobacco company documents and allow teens to videotape messages to tobacco companies. A compact disc was recorded, snowboarding events were sponsored and community-based Target Market clubs held their own events.
Teens apparently responded to the anti-tobacco industry slant more strongly than to the conventional "its bad for your health" approach.
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