In an effort to reduce tobacco use among area youth, the Barry County Health Department engaged in a tobacco use survey with four local school districts.
The confidential study was conducted in the spring of 2008 and its purpose was to identify tobacco use behaviors among sixth through 12th graders. Students were instructed to answer the questions based on their own behavior.
"Barry County is faced with the challenge of reducing tobacco use among our youth, and the survey as part of that process," said Kathleen King, health department administrator. "The results have been tabulated and some interesting findings have occurred."
According to the study, 35.7 percent of students surveyed reported they had tried smoking cigarettes or cigars. That percentage is only slightly higher than the state average of 34.8 percent.
The survey also revealed that 16 percent of Barry County students acquired cigarettes themselves by purchasing them or stealing them from stores or individuals. The local average mirrors the national average exactly.
Now that the study is complete, the health department will research evidence-based tobacco prevention programs and present those findings to local schools and community agencies.
"Perhaps, we will encourage our local schools to implement tobacco-free programs," said King.
"Our mission here at the Barry County Health Department is to promote healthy behaviors for all residents," added King. "It is especially important to promote the health of our youth and prevent illness as they are the future of our county."
Missouri ranks 49th out of 50 states in tax per cigarette pack. Currently, Missouri smokers pay 17 cents in tax per pack. The national average is $1.18 in taxes per pack.
According to a study conducted by the National Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, there is a correlation between higher cigarette taxes and reduced levels of smoking among young people.
"Raising cigarette prices is one of the most effective ways to prevent and reduce smoking, especially among youth," said King.
It is estimated that smoking costs $2.13 billion annually in direct healthcare costs.