Smoking Trends In Amarillo

Smoking is the number one cause of preventable diseases and deaths in Texas. That's according to the Centers for Disease Control which also claims the number of smokers across the state has stalled at 21 percent. 
In Amarillo that number is higher than both the national and state averages according to a recent community health survey where residents were asked about their smoking habits. 
City health officials say what  is encouraging is that the number has decreased by 4 percent since their last survey in 1999, and they've also seen significant declines in other areas.

"There were some really positive results in 2007, our rates of smoking have decreased for people who have just begun. Also, our rates of smoking have decreased in people who have smoked a 100 cigarettes or more in their lifetime."  said Amarillo Public Health Director Matt Richardson.

Some other results of the study say 39 percent of survey respondents said they did not smoke in 1999.  In 2007 the number of people who said they did not smoke jumped to 51 percent.  So overall the study suggests Amarillo is seeing a decline in the number of smokers, but it is still higher than the state average. 
Some local businesses say smoking habits are changing in Amarillo because of the one dollar cigarette tax increase implemented by the city in January.  However, they add that people are still smoking despite the cigarette tax increase, they're just buying differently. 

"The people who smoke the higher premium brands kinda stay about the same. The people who smoke the medium or lower brands tend to go down to the cheaper one and some people are starting to make their own cause it's a lot cheaper."  said 34th Stree Discount Mart Manager Prang Chim.
Chim adds he is seeing a lot of changes in smoking habits as the year progresses. 

"In the beginning of the year a lot of people tried to quit and some have quit and some have cut down quite a bit because it's too expensive."
Chim also says his store is really feeling the pain when it comes to their bottom line. 

"It was a big drop at the beginning of the year, it kinda leveled off now, but it's not like it was before the tax."

One local organization says they've seen a huge success in the number of youth smokers.

"70% drop in smoking rate in the 6th grade, that's been our most successful grade, although even in the 12th grade we've noticed a 40% drop."  said Dr. James Luce a Volunteer for Tobacco Free Amarillo.

Program Director Meg Williams says 90 percent of their resources are used for preventative efforts like anti-tobacco commercials and school curriculum. Williams says they are the only preventative program in Texas and they are funded through the tobacco settlement funds.  She also says the national average of teen smokers is 24 percent, but here in Amarillo it's 8 percent.