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Smoking among U.S. youths declines, but less quickly

August 09, 2012|By Mary MacVean
  • Smoking among young people has declined, a study finds.
Smoking among young people has declined, a study finds. (Kirsty Wigglesworth / Associated…)

Nearly 30% of middle and high school boys and nearly 18% of girls used some form of tobacco last year, the federal government said in a report published Thursday.

Over the last decade, there has been a slow decline in tobacco use among middle and high school students, the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. But when compared with other long-term studies, such as the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the steep rate of decline from 1997 to 2003 has slowed noticeably. 

Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States. 

“An overall decline in tobacco use is good news, but although four out of five teens don't smoke, far too many kids start to smoke every day,” Thomas R. Frieden, director of the CDC, said in a statement. “Most tobacco use begins and becomes established during adolescence. This report is further evidence that we need to do more to prevent our nation’s youth from establishing a deadly addiction to tobacco.”

Nearly 25% of high school males and more than 17% of high school females used some form of smoked tobacco product in 2011, according to the analysis, published Thursday in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The report also showed:

In 2011, 7.1% of middle school students and 23.2% of high school students used tobacco, with the rates at 4.3% and 15.8% for cigarettes.

More than 8% of middle school boys and nearly 6% of middle school girls used some form of tobacco in 2011.

Among black high school students, cigar use went from 7.1%  in 2009 to 11.7%  in 2011.  (That includes cigarette-like cigars that can be packaged and smoked like cigarettes, but are taxed at a lower rate.)

Cigarette use declined from 19.2% in 2009 to 15.8% among Hispanic high school students.

Smokeless tobacco use among high school males (12.9%) was eight times higher than among high school females (1.6%).

The report is based on the National Youth Tobacco Survey, administered in 2011 to 18,866 students in 178 schools. It does not take into account how frequently students use tobacco and is a self-reported study; the authors note that could affect the results.

Cigarette use and exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke kill an estimated 443,000 Americans each year.  The health consequences of tobacco use include heart disease, multiple types of cancer, lung disease, adverse reproductive effects, and the worsening of chronic health conditions.  Cigarette smoking has been estimated to cost $193 billion annually in direct health care expenses and lost productivity.

For quitting assistance, visit www.smokefree.gov.

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