Smoking rates see dramatic drop

The daily smoking rate on campus is the lowest it’s ever been — 2.6 percent.

by Urmila Ramakrishnan

Smoking rates have decreased more than 50 percent since 1980, according to a Minnesota Heart Survey study.
The study, published in the Nov. 23 issue of the journal Circulation, was conducted through surveys every five years by University of Minnesota researchers.
Smoking has decreased by more than 50 percent in males and more than 62.7 percent among females, University associate professor and project director Lyn Steffen said.
The University population has seen similar decreases. The daily smoking rate among students decreased since 2007, Dave Golden, Boynton Health Service director of public health and marketing, said. The daily smoking rate is the lowest it has ever been, he said, and decreased from 3.7 percent in 2007 to 2.6 percent in 2010.
The study also looked at cardiovascular risk factors associated with smoking, Steffen said.
The study began in 1980 and included about 5,000 people who lived in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area. It looks at trends and provides âÄúkind of a snapshot of whatâÄôs happening in the population,âÄù Steffen said. Participants differed in each survey and ranged from 25 to 75 years old. The last survey was conducted from 2007 to 2009.
Among male smokers, the average number of cigarettes consumed in a day decreased by about 10 since 1980, Steffen said. From 2007 to 2009, the average was 13.5.
Policy changes since 1980 may account for the dramatic decrease. âÄúWithout a doubt, things like Freedom to Breathe have caused a reduction overall,âÄù Golden said, referring to the statewide smoking ban in public buildings.
Although the prevalence of smoking has decreased, Golden said that the exposure to secondhand smoke is still very prevalent on campus, with more than 52 percent of students exposed.
âÄúIt is by far the leading place where theyâÄôre exposed. There is nothing else thatâÄôs close,âÄù he said.
The age of smokers has also changed since 1980. Steffen said that the average starting age for female smokers has dropped from 19.5 to 17.7 years old. Additionally, the prevalence of people who have never smoked has increased.
Incoming students have the lowest percentage of smokers among all students, Golden said. Previously, graduate students were lower.
âÄúIn general itâÄôs become less and less acceptable out there to smoke, particularly on a daily basis,âÄù Golden said.
Awareness of negative health effects could also account for the decrease, Steffen said. The study results are similar to others conducted nationally, Steffen said, and she expects to see further decreases in smoking.