Crook County tackles high teen smoking rates

Retailers close to schools

Crook County fights teen smoking

PRINEVILLE, Ore. - There's a vicious cycle in Crook County. A high number of adults are smoking and teens are mimicking their behavior.

Nine percent of eighth graders and 19 percent of 11th graders say they use tobacco in Crook County. Those numbers are much higher than Oregon's state average.    

"Kids are smart -- they can find ways to get things if they want them," Alyssa Bruhn with the Crook County Health Department said Friday.

In Crook County, tobacco is within reach for teens.

"We have 50 percent of our tobacco retailers within 1,000 feet of schools in Crook County," said Kris Williams of the health department.

For example, the high school is less than 1,000 feet from R and R, a grocery store that sells alcohol and tobacco. It is one short walk from the open campus.

"Students have complained about walking through clouds of smoke to get to the grocery store," Bruhn said.

NewsChannel 21 is told kids gather there to smoke and get lunch.

"When the kids are walking to and from school, they're exposed to it a minimum of twice a day," Williams said.

Laws regulate how many tobacco ads stores can put in their windows, but that is not enough. Tobacco companies are targeting teens in other ways, like social media.

"The tobacco industry spends $1 million an hour on advertising and promotion," Williams said.

That means tobacco companies are spending more in a day than the state spends in a whole year for prevention ads. Much of their ads are specifically directed towards rural areas like Crook County as well.

Health officials say education for the whole community is crucial.

"I've actually seen a parent give their kid a packet of Skoal," the chewing tobacco, Bruhn said.

Fighting trans-generational smoking is important in changing a century-old mindset, and saving lives in the process.

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