Reduce the number of Vermonters who smoke and 5 more...less...

Reduce the prevalence of chronic disease

Reduce the number of Vermont youth who smoke

Youth choose healthy behaviors

Increase physical activity and good nutrition, and decrease tobacco use

Vermont's youth choose healthy behaviors (PPMB)

% of adolescents in grades 9-12 who smoke cigarettes

7%2019

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Story Behind the Curve

Last Updated: January 2020

Author: Tobacco Control Program


In 1995, the prevalence of youth smokers in Vermont was 40%. In 2015, it was 11% which is similar to the national average. Two years later the youth smoking rate dropped to 9% (2017 YRBS) which exceeded our Healthy Vermonter 2020 goal - and most recently dropped to 7% as measured in the 2019 YRBS!

The Tobacco Control Program in collaboration with its partners including advocates, health voluntary organizations, the Tobacco Evaluation and Review Board and legislators, have worked diligently to reduce tobacco’s harm to youth. Achievements since the early 90’s include prohibiting cigarette sales to minors, creating smoke-free schools, prohibiting vending machine sales and establishing Vermont Kids Against Tobacco (VKAT) youth coalition effort. Subsequently, in addition to tobacco tax increases and other restrictions passed in the Vermont legislature, the current prevalence of youth smoking is 67% less than it was twenty years ago. While establishing Vermont’s Healthy People 2020 goals, the program adopted the national benchmark in setting the target goal of 10% youth prevalence.

Multiple efforts have contributed to the declining prevalence in the last 20 years. Since 2009, Vermont’s Tobacco Control Program has systematized the technical assistance and training provided to youth and community coalitions in order to increase awareness and implementation strategies per best practice guidelines. An important component of prevention is to shift social norms to tobacco-free, raise awareness of tobacco’s danger and impact on health, reduce the impact of tobacco advertising on youth initiation, and create healthy environments which support tobacco-free lifestyles. The program added Our Voices Xposed (OVX) in 2001 to mobilize high school youth in tobacco control issues. Tobacco programs assess their progress in prevention through reducing initiation among youth by monitoring the proportion that smoke their first whole cigarette by the age of 13. Vermont has seen a significant decline in youth smoking initiation which was 6% in 2015 (YRBS 2015).

A continued emphasis for youth engagement through VKAT and OVX is to engage community members around tobacco issues aided by collaborating with the Agency of Education.  In 2015, the program implemented a successful youth engagement initiative titled Free My Ride, which focused on increasing awareness of the dangers posed by smoking in vehicles when children are present. In 2016, OVX youth brought attention to the sharp rise in e-cigarette use by teens. The program has implemented Down and Dirty as a method of engaging rural youth with tobacco-free branding and an educational campaign CounterBalance to bring attention to the dangers of flavors and how they are used to initiate youth to tobacco. Since 2017, community grantees and youth have been collecting concern cards, spoke to the media about flavored tobacco, and participated in a photo voice project highlighting what tobacco access and promotion looks like in their communities.

The program has been identifying and tackling issues that detrimentally impact youth’s vulnerability to tobacco. Youth efforts have focused on the need for smoke-free places like parks, beaches, school grounds and cars. Over the past several years the program has worked with advocates and partners on tightening youth’s access and exposure to both tobacco and tobacco substitutes culminating in Act 135. This piece of legislation bans the use of e-cigarettes and paraphernalia, both of which can be pathways to smoking, on school grounds and at school events. Act 135 also included bans on smoking cigarettes in cars with children under 8 years old. In 2016 Act 108 was passed to restrict the use of e-cigarettes wherever lit tobacco products are banned. These bills are key to protecting health and safeguarding social norms. In 2019 the Vermont Legislature passed a set of prevention acts to ban e-cigarette sales online without a wholesale license, create a tax on e-cigarettes (defined as tobacco substitutes), and raised from 18 to 21 the legal age to purchase tobacco products. 

 

Partners


    • Tobacco Evaluation and Review Board (VTERB) - An independent state board dedicated to a statewide Comprehensive Tobacco Control Program that continually and effectively reduces tobacco use prevalence to improve the health and well-being of Vermonters.
    • Agency of Education - A collaborator with the Tobacco Program in funding and training youth groups to educate on the dangers of tobacco and how it is promoted, discounted and available to youth in communities across Vermont.
    • Coalition for Tobacco-free Vermont - A statewide coalition comprised of members of health voluntary organizations (Lung, Cancer, Heart) and community tobacco coalitions. The Coalition works to advance strong tobacco control and prevention policies to create a Tobacco-free Vermont.
    • Tobacco Community Coalitions - A network of community grantees who work to prevent youth initiation, support quit activity locally and reduce exposure to secondhand smoke while strengthening tobacco norms.
    • - advisors and youth advocates work diligently to educate their communities about the dangers of tobacco and how they are targeted by the industry. The Agency of Education and the Tobacco Program collaborate on funding and training youth throughout the year.
    • Rescue – As a contractor of the Tobacco Program, develops strategy for youth prevention mass media and HMC Advertising – Purchases media, negotiates best deals possible due to their buying clout.
What Works

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs gives three specific recommendations for preventing tobacco use among youth: increase tobacco excise taxes and parity among products, packaging, displays, age of purchase and comprehensive indoor and outdoor air restrictions, conduct mass media education campaigns and restrict minors’ access to tobacco products. These recommendations contain strategies that the tobacco program already performs with current funding. One of these strategies is aligning the youth initiation campaign efforts between community coalitions and OVX and VKAT groups and providing training tailored for youth and the communities in which they live. The Program also partners with the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program to support tobacco cessation via its network of local youth service providers.

Strategy

The program proposes a multi-pronged approach to increase the coordination and outcomes associated with best practices. In particular, the program will seek to increase the implementation and outcomes of the following:

  • Conduct and evaluate a three year Point of Sale Campaign (POS) aimed to reduce the impact of tobacco on youth initiation and tobacco use. The POS Campaign will educate, raise awareness and generate support for reducing the impact of tobacco advertising in Vermont communities.
  • Conduct a statewide assessment of tobacco products, pricing, and placement using Counter Tools, a retail audit tool to monitor tobacco pricing and locations of retailers, which will give a better understanding of density around schools, availability of flavored products which are attractive to youth, and advertising impressions on youth from being in convenience stores supermarkets, and pharmacies.
  • Continue to work closely and share data with the Agency of Education as we seek to implement whole school, whole community, whole child to improve health.
  • Conduct an annual retail education effort that dovetails with training and campaign opportunities.
  • Expand the accessibility of youth cessation resources and their promotion
  • Continue to further eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Continue to increase the number and type of tobacco and smoke free environments including college and hospital campuses, parks, beaches and community gathering spots

Similar to statewide efforts, local partners are using data to drive local strategy. For regional data on Tobacco indicators, check out our Public Health Data Explorer.

Why Is This Important?

Tobacco use is the #1 preventable cause of death. In Vermont, smoking costs approximately $348 million in medical expenses and results in an estimated 1,000 smoking-related deaths each year. 10,000 kids now under 18 and alive in Vermont will ultimately die prematurely from smoking. Countless other lives, including those of friends and family members, are impacted by the negative effects of tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure. Reducing tobacco use and the chronic disease and mortality it causes is one of CDC's Winnable Battles.

Reducing tobacco use is part of Healthy Vermonters 2020 (the State Health Assessment) that documents the health status of Vermonters at the start of the decade and the population health indicators and goals that will guide the work of public health through 2020. Click here for more information. This indicator is also part of the State Health Improvement Plan (SHIP), a five-year plan that prioritizes broad Healthy Vermonters 2020 goals: reducing prevalence of chronic disease, reducing prevalence of substance abuse and mental illness, and improving childhood immunizations. The SHIP is a subset of HV2020 and details strategies and planned interventions. Click here for more information.

Act 186 was passed by the Vermont Legislature in 2014 to quantify how well State government is working to achieve the population-level outcomes the Legislature sets for Vermont’s quality of life. It will assist the Legislature in determining how best to invest taxpayer dollars. The Vermont Department of Health and the Agency of Human Services report this information annually. Click here for more information.

Notes on Methodology

Data is updated as it becomes available and timing may vary by data source. For more information about this indicator, click here.

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