Last updated: March 04. 2014 9:38AM - 1750 Views

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Fewer West Virginia middle school and high school students are trying tobacco.

At the 2014 Tobacco Free Day press conference at the West Virginia Capitol, leaders of the Raze Teen Advisory Council presented updated statistics about teen tobacco usage, highlighting conclusions from the current Surgeon General’s Report, and shared news of West Virginia’s Youth Tobacco Prevention Initiative, Raze.

Raze, a teen-led organization dedicated to fighting tobacco, announced Tuesday the decrease in tobacco usage from 2000 to 2013. The announcement was made as a part of the annual Tobacco Free Day at the Capitol during which hundreds of students from across the state celebrate achievements made to support tobacco prevention efforts. The students are members of Raze and Tobacco Free Day is a Coalition for a Tobacco Free West Virginia sponsored event.

Specific findings shared by Raze include:

— Since Raze began in 2000, there has been a 124 percent increase in the prevalence of never tobacco use in any form (including cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and cigars). Among high school students, the percentage of students who have never used any form of tobacco has increased from 20.6 percent in 2000 to 46.1 percent in 2013.

— Since Raze began in 2000, there has been a 107 percent increase in prevalence of high school students who have never smoked a cigarette, not even one for two puffs. This increase represents the change from 25.7 percent in 2000 to 53.2 percent in 2013.

— 86 percent of West Virginia middle school and high school students, grades six through 12, don’t smoke.

“We are pleased to see that our efforts are making a difference,” said Jason Nichols, Raze Teen Advisory Council President. “It is very encouraging to see statistics supporting our work to help tobacco prevention across the state. We are finding that while our results have been strong there are still students using many forms of tobacco and Raze will continue to stand up for tobacco prevention and encourage teens to rebel against tobacco use.”

As part of the Tobacco Free Day at the Capitol, public officials learned about the dangers of tobacco use and the efforts Raze Crews around the state are making in their communities. By raising awareness about the deadly toll tobacco takes on West Virginia and showing gratitude to state officials who have actively supported tobacco control and prevention in the state, Raze hopes to garner continued support for its cause.

Students unable to attend Tobacco Free Day at the Capitol were encouraged to participate in the day’s events through a virtual experience. “With the vast number of school days missed due to weather, we wanted to develop a way that all students would be able to participate in Tobacco Free Day whether at the Capitol or back in their own schools and communities,” said Nichols. Virtual Tobacco Free Day activities included an electronic scavenger hunt designed to educate students on tobacco facts and West Virginia state history, opportunity to view a live stream of the press conference, and Crews were encouraged to send letters and photographs to their legislators to share what their crews have been doing in their communities.

Established in 2001, Raze is a statewide youth tobacco prevention movement funded and facilitated by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and the American Lung Association. Each year, thousands of West Virginian middle school and high school students help in the fight against Big Tobacco. For more information, please visit www.RazeWV.com.

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