Why are fewer young people smoking?

Do they still sell candy cigarettes? When I was a kid, we’d ride our bikes down to the co-op store and plunk down a nickel and we’d get horrible tasting candy cigarettes, with a little swipe of red on the end (I guess that was the ash). Then we’d stand out on steps and pretend we were smoking because it’s what made us look cool. It was only when we didn’t get dates for the prom years later that we realized that it’d take more than candy cigarettes. And, by then too, we learned more about what smoking can do to you.

Still, even fairly recently, kids started smoking, partly because they thought it made them look cool.

But what’s happened here?

A new Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota survey finds a big drop in the number of young adults smoking in Minnesota. And it’s not just this state; other states are reporting similar findings over the last few years. The research shows the state’s 75 cent a pack “health impact fee” introduced in 2005 played a role in curbing smoking as did smoke-free policies on campuses and other public places.

MPR’s Paul Tosto wants to hear from you if you’ve tried to quit.

“We’ve heard already from several folks in our Public Insight Network,” Paul says. “One young woman told us she quit when she got pregnant and the ‘increasing lack of social tolerance for smoking,’ together with the memory of how hard it was to quit, kept her from going back. Smoking ‘was an almost instant passport into a social group anywhere you went’ when she started in 1997 but by 2007 when she quit for good most people looked down on it.

“A 24-year-old tells us that smoking was not even an option for her growing up. ‘No one did it at home and I was too involved in activities like sports to get involved in smoking.'”