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Utah's youth are now smoking at a lower rate than ever before, according to a new state Tobacco Prevention and Control Program report.

As of 2011, only 5.9 percent of Utah high schoolers said they smoked cigarettes, compared to 11.9 percent in 1999. Nationwide, 18.1 percent of youth smoke.

Research shows that almost 90 percent of adult smokers picked up the habit by age 18, so the state continues to discourage youth from starting. In the past 10 years, 21 school districts have created tobacco-free policies and offered tobacco-prevention education, the report states.

The illegal sale of tobacco to minors has dropped 69 percent since 2001.

Along with the success of the youth program, state health officials report that almost 12,000 tobacco users took advantage of free cessation programs over the past year.

"At 11.3 percent, Utah's adult smoking rate is the lowest in the nation," said Amy Oliver, the program's marketing manager, in a news release. "But our work is far from finished as there are still 220,000 adult smokers in Utah, and four out of five of them want to quit."

Officials project that tobacco costs the state $663 million each year in health expenses and lost productivity at work.

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