New survey shows teens in Northwest Colorado smoking more |

New survey shows teens in Northwest Colorado smoking more

According to the latest results of the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, middle and high school students in Routt, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Jackson counties combined are more likely to have smoked for 20 of the last 30 days than they were in 2013.
Courtesy Photo

— New state-collected data from the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey show more teens in Northwest Colorado may be taking up regular cigarette use, despite an overall statewide decrease in youth use.

About 5 percent of teens surveyed in Region 11, which includes Routt, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Jackson counties, reported smoking cigarettes for 20 of the past 30 days, compared to 2.8 percent statewide.

In 2013, only 1.6 percent of students in the Northwest Colorado region reported smoking 20 of the past 30 days.

“It is entirely possible that, while fewer kids are lighting up today, those that have already begun on the path of addiction are smoking more and more instead of trying to decrease use,” said Maggie Rainwater, tri-county tobacco coordinator for Grand Futures Prevention Coalition. “It’s hard to say if this increase is a trend or just a random blip on the data landscape.”

Rainwater said she likes to consider the statistic within the larger context of youth tobacco use statewide, which, according to the survey results, decreased from 2013 to 2015.

“While more students are smoking on more days, it seems apparent that, overall, less students are initiating use,” Rainwater said. “This is important, because, according to the surgeon general, nine out of 10 smokers began before they turned 18. The longer we can deter youth from using, the likelihood that they become addicted decreases dramatically.”

Rainwater said it’s unfortunate for teens that they are often punished for tobacco use in schools rather than being led to cessation opportunities.

Grand Futures offers a voluntary course for students interested in quitting the use of tobacco or marijuana, and the organization encourages educators and administrators to reach out if they’re interested in revamping their tobacco policies to offer more cessation support for students.

Several hundred students from the four-county region, including students at all Routt and Moffat county high schools, were invited to take the survey, administered by the state departments of health and environment, education and human services, the University of Colorado and a community advisory committee, in fall 2015.

The survey results provide a treasure trove of data about youth health behaviors throughout Colorado, and many of the results are positive.

The percentage of Region 11 students who reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days decreased from 36 percent in 2013 to 30 percent in 2015. Also, fewer students reported binge drinking.

Students reporting marijuana use in the past 30 days increased in Northwest Colorado, with about 20 percent of students reporting use in the past 30 days in 2015, up from 14.3 percent in 2013.

View the full report from Region 11 at

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

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