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Smoking rate falls slightly for young adults in Ohio

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While smoking by Ohio adults 30 and older has declined from 30 percent in 1984 to 19 percent in 2008, smoking rates among young adults, ages 18-29, have remained high. In 1984, 30 percent of young adults smoked compared to 28 percent in 2008.

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BOWLING GREEN - A senior at Bowling Green State University, Ryan Lasecki said he started smoking cigarettes only last semester.

He sees cigarettes - surgeon general's warning or not - as stress reducers.

"Lately I've had some bad things happen in my life so I thought I'd give it a shot, and you know it does kind of help out a little," the 21-year-old said while lighting up outside the Student Union. "I don't smoke a ton. Some of my friends smoke a pack a day. I don't smoke that much."

Some 45 years after the surgeon general issued the landmark Report on Smoking and Health, which documented the health hazards from smoking, young adults continue to smoke at nearly the same rate as they did in 1984, a new report shows.

An analysis published this month by BGSU's Center for Family and Demographic Research showed that 30 percent of young adults ages 18 to 29 in Ohio smoked in 1984. By 2008, that proportion had dropped only slightly, to 28 percent.

Conversely, 30 percent of adults 30 and older were smokers in 1984, but that rate dropped to 19 percent by 2008.

"Somebody's getting the message," remarked Heidi Lyons, an applied demographer with the center at BGSU.

She said she was floored to see the dramatic drop in smoking by older adults, but the almost level rate by younger adults.

"You'd like young adults to not even start smoking, since they've grown up with the message," she said.

Ms. Lyons compiled the report with information from the U.S. Census, the 2008 Ohio Family and Health Survey, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2008 Behavioral Risk Factor Sur-veillance System. In addition to smoking, the report showed young adults were more likely than older adults to binge drink, less likely to get enough sleep, and less likely to always wear seat belts.

The report also said 30 percent of all young adults in Ohio are overweight, and 20 percent are obese. Along with that came health complications many would not expect to see in young adults, Ms. Lyons said.

Although 10 percent of all young adults have high blood pressure, 21 percent of obese young adults have high blood pressure. Obese young adults also are more likely to have diabetes.

"These [issues] are having significant ramifications in their lives," she said. "It's a little bit of a bummer. We need to get that message out there that they need to change their behaviors."

Some students say they've heard the message but choose to ignore it.

One BGSU senior who wanted to be anonymous said she started smoking as a college freshman even though she's known all her life it was unhealthy.

"Everything I was ever taught was smoking was awful," she said. "I hate myself for liking it. I regret starting."

It's an expensive habit - more than $5 a pack - but a social one, she said.

"If you're at a bar and you go outside to smoke, you meet people," she said.

Freshman Michael Williams said he never considered smoking.

"For me it's too scary to even attempt," he said. "It's hard to even breathe in when you walk by someone who smokes."

Sophomore Derek Reiman said he never found smoking extremely appealing so he didn't start.

"The young people I hung out with never smoked and I never had any money," he said.

Like other students who do light up, Mr. Lasecki said he sees smoking as a short-term habit. He said he took a 2 1/2-week trip to Australia over the summer during which he didn't smoke and didn't have a problem.

"I don't plan on doing it for terribly long," he said.

Contact Jennifer Feehan

at jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129.

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