Nationally, only 4.9 percent students in the eighth grade use cigarettes. Across the state, 7 percent of eighth-grade students reported using cigarettes, and in Madison County, more than 9 percent admitted to smoking cigarettes.
More than 17 percent of students nationwide in the 12th grade report using cigarettes, 19.5 percent reported using cigarettes in the state, and 26.1 percent reported using cigarettes in Madison County.
Kress said he smoked his first cigarette when he was 12. Since then he has stopped smoking occasionally, but has not been able to break the habit.
According to the CDC, about 8 percent of smokers benefit from free tobacco cessation lines. Less than 1 percent called the quitline in Indiana. Madison County hospitals also offer tobacco cessation programs for free.
“We know it takes a tobacco user an average of seven to nine times to quit and stay quit for more than one year,” Knight-Wilkerson said. “The important thing is that they are recognizing the need to quit and are making that effort.”
Knight-Wilkerson said there are several tobacco cessation methods available to Madison County residents. She said the best source for quitting is to call 1-800-QUITNOW or visit www.eQuitNow.com.
More than 443,000 people die each year from smoking or from exposure to secondhand smoke and more than 8.6 million people have a serious illness caused by smoking, according to the CDC.
When the Surgeon General’s warning was issued 50 years ago, almost half of the nation’s population smoked and no one thought twice about selling cigarettes to children.
“We grew up in a different time in the ’70s,” Kress said. “They used to sell cigarettes to me when I was a kid.”
James Davidson, 56, Anderson, said he has smoked for more than 30 years.
“I just had some tests and my lungs are a little foggy,” he said. “I wish I would have never touched them — period.”