Tobacco, Alcohol Rates Continue to Decline Among Erie County Ninth Graders

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

BUFFALO, NY – Some good news for a change! Tobacco, alcohol and other drug use rates by ninth graders in Erie County have declined with the most substantial decreases occurring for tobacco use, according to a study conducted by researchers at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The 2008-09 survey included 2,868 students enrolled in Erie County which represents approximately 30% of ninth graders in the county. Roswell Park has conducted similar surveys every four years since 1992.

Lead investigator of the study, Andrew Hyland, PhD, Department of Health Behavior at Roswell Park, said, “The findings reveal that students’ use of drugs, especially tobacco, has declined significantly. Tobacco used to be cool, but now it is not for kids and adults. Policy changes such as the increase in cigarette taxes, passage of the clean indoor air law, and education about tobacco have helped shift attitudes about tobacco use.”

“While these study results are encouraging, we have a long way to go before cigarettes find their way into the history books. Cigarette companies are still working hard to find ways to attack new customers. Flavored products along with unique packaging designs are intended to attract the interest of young people. There are no simple solutions to the complex problems which develop as a result of drug use among teens, however, we hope that this report will encourage wider discussion among students, parents, schools, local businesses, community and governmental agencies to identify more effective ways to help our youth reject drug use,” added K. Michael Cummings, PhD, Chair of the Department of Health Behavior at Roswell Park.

Overall drug use rates in Erie County are lower than what is observed nationally. Highlights from the survey are:

Tobacco Use:

  • Current cigarette use and the intention to smoke decreased from 12 to 9%, a decrease of 25%.
  • “Frequent” cigarette smoking (smoking on more than 20 or more days in the past 30 days) decreased by one third, from 4% to 3%.
  • Despite efforts to enforce laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco to minors, 85% of smokers report it is easy for them to get cigarettes.

Alcohol Use:

  • Alcohol remained the most commonly used drug. Twenty-eight percent of the ninth graders reported drinking an alcoholic beverage in the past month, a decrease from 32% in 2004-2005.
  • Eighty-three percent of alcohol used among current drinkers was obtained from non-commercial sources – friends, siblings, parents and other adults.

Other Drug Use:

  • Current use of marijuana among ninth grade students decreased from 10% in 2004-2005 to 9% in 2008-2009.
  • Current prevalence of cocaine use decreased from two to one percent.

Other survey results found that teenagers say they usually lie about their age when trying to buy cigarettes and 38% of current teen smokers say they are rarely or never asked for age identification when purchasing cigarettes. The decrease in tobacco use was the most evident among Hispanic youth. Marijuana showed the largest increase between 1992 and 1996, but has shown modest decreases in more recent years.

View the complete report of “The Survey of Alcohol, Tobacco and Drug Use Among Ninth Grade Students, 2008-09."

The mission of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. Roswell Park, founded in 1898, was one of the first cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and remains the only facility with this designation in Upstate New York. The Institute is a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers; maintains affiliate sites; and is a partner in national and international collaborative programs. For more information, visit Roswell Park’s website at, call 1-800-ROSWELL (1-800-767-9355) or email

Media Contact: 

Annie Deck-Miller, Senior Media Relations Manager