July 8th, 2010
01:21 PM ET

High school smoking down but still 1 out of 5

Although smoking rates among high school students have declined since the late 1990s, one out of five high school students are reported as current cigarette users, according to new data published Thursday by the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health.

Analysis of nationwide high school survey data showed that smoking rates declined in the late 1990s at a steeper pace than those during recent years. In 1999, 35 percent of high school students smoked. Ten years later, that number has dropped to nearly 20 percent. However, a nationwide goal set under the Healthy People 2010 initiative was trying to reduce the number of teenage smokers down to 16 percent, which wasn’t met.

The slower decline rates observed are “discouraging,” said CDC Director Thomas Frieden in a press release Thursday. “The slow progress since 2003 tells us that much more needs to be done to reduce youth smoking.”

The report suggests that the increasing youth smoking rates during the early to mid-1990s may have been a result of expanded tobacco company promotional efforts, including sponsorships of music concerts and depictions of smoking in film. Last year, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act gave the FDA additional authority to regulate the tobacco industry—particularly in establishing restrictions on youth access and promotional practices. Studies have shown that a younger smoking age can increase the difficulty of quitting as adults.

In order to boost the recently lagging rates of decline, the report advocates a reduction in tobacco advertising and commercial availability. Last month, new rules that limit the marketing of cigarettes and tobacco products went info effect.

Details of the full survey can be found in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Michael Wong

    I'm surprised the teen smoking rate is only 20%. That's very encouraging, although of course, we would prefer 0%.

    July 8, 2010 at 15:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. jay


    July 8, 2010 at 15:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Ethan

    I wonder, then, what their definition of "current cigarette users" is? If it means habitually or once or twice, or even occasionally? Because if it's one of the last two then it would skew the data towards being a higher percentage. I guess I don't know and, while I agree that 20% is still pretty high, I'm not quite entirely sure I trust the data set.

    July 8, 2010 at 17:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Liz

    I'm oh so sick of the rage against smokers. I don't smoke, so no personal issues here. I'd just like to see the health insurance companies, the media, all companies who restrict and ban smoking and won't hire those who smoke – – let's apply this same yardstick to drinkers. In every story and article about how much is spent on health problems of smokers, and how many die from smoke related problems, there should be side by side comparison to alcohol. NO ONE has the guts to take on drinking. NO ONE. How many deaths occur every year not just from physical problems of liver and pancreas and heart, etc to the personal dinker, but how many are killed by drunk drivers, and how many dui's and dwi's are issued to the drunken drivers. How much is being done to stop kids from drinking, compared to the no-smoking education? My grandsons are so brain washed about smokers, but they see parties at their house all the time where people drink for several hours and then get in their cars and drive home. This smoking campaign is the biggest hypocrisy in our country today. Let's get real.

    July 8, 2010 at 17:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Darren

      That's ridiculous. Second hand smoke kills. Yes, drunk driving does as well, but it's not the same as just sitting next to someone and inhaling their exhaled poison.

      July 9, 2010 at 00:23 | Report abuse |
    • Oneula

      I full heatedly agree with you. Unfortunately I am a smoker, but only in private and I never litter. I can't stand drivers who drink! It is so often one hears, "I can drive better with a drink or two."or "One or two drinks won't hurt me.", etc etc. Tell that to the wife, husband, father, mother, son, duaghter, friend, cousin, co-worker and all of the other people that are affected when the drunk drivers kill or maim someone.
      Smoking is stupid, harmful, and expensive, but drinking probably causes more pain and heartach as well

      July 9, 2010 at 00:38 | Report abuse |
    • Jessica

      In the US, we used to spend 1 in 3 healthcare dollars on smoking-related illnesses. Now it's obesity. Smoking is still a serious problem, but it's not the "social disease" it used to be. Just like anything else (drinking, smoking, eating, sex, etc.) too much is NOT a good thing. A little doesn't hurt. Culturally, however, we just don't know how to stop at a little.

      As for Darren's comment, second-hand smoke is indeed unpleasant. But you'd have to be sitting next to that smoker an awfully LONG time before you're done in. On the other hand, a drunk driver is an imminent threat to literally everyone around them, randomly, at any moment. You really can't compare the two.

      July 9, 2010 at 08:22 | Report abuse |
    • jay

      Can you name a case of a person killed by second hand smoke? I here this all the time but have never been presented with any proof.

      July 9, 2010 at 09:37 | Report abuse |
    • Entropy


      "I'd just like to see the health insurance companies, the media, all companies who restrict and ban smoking and won't hire those who smoke – – let's apply this same yardstick to drinkers."

      1. What companies do you know of allow people drink at work?
      2. If your insurance company knew that you were an alcoholic, I almost guarantee your rates will be higher – as they should be. If you do anything that's knowingly harmful to your body then your rates should be higher – including smoking!
      3. There are laws that prohibit people from drinking and driving, and there are a lot of organizations that campaign against it and support groups for people to get help with their addiction. You should not be allowed to do something that puts other people's health at risk – including smoking!

      This is an article about something positive for once. Teen smoking is down. You should be happy with that instead of making this an issue about something completely different. My mother had a heart attack due to smoking and in the same month my 33 year old sister had a stroke due to smoking. Smoking IS a big deal to some people, even if it isn't to you.

      July 9, 2010 at 12:13 | Report abuse |
  5. Truth

    Kids used to smoke to look cool and feel like adults. Now that most teenagers are more aware and educated, the teen smokers are seen as mentally slow losers by their peers.

    July 8, 2010 at 18:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Get Real

      A couple of years ago, my teenage cousin told me Narcotics like Vicodin and Oxycontin are now the "way to be cool". She said her classmates would do anything to get their hands on some. The thing is, teenagers are ALWAYS going to find something 'bad' to do. They are rebellious by nature. So we can get them to quit smoking, but then they will move onto something else.

      July 9, 2010 at 00:33 | Report abuse |
  6. Hanna

    I'm a teenager myself reading this article for a report. Although I have never smoked, I really dont think that the teen smoking rate is only 20%. Because out of all high school students, although 20% admit to smoking, probably most of the 80% nonsmokers are lying about not smoking. I really think it's stupid for teens to smoke. They're young, and have the rest of their life to live. They shouldn't waste it spendingg money on cigarettes and smoking.

    July 8, 2010 at 20:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jim

      The high school smoking rate is highly variable depending where you live. Where I live it it is less than 10%.

      July 9, 2010 at 11:16 | Report abuse |
  7. Explain Stuff

    We recently had an article on this at explainstuff. hopefully you'll find something that we wanted most of ours to read.
    That post explains what makes smoking addictive, why people tend to smoke even though they know the effects of smoking and what are the social impacts of smoking. It is very informative. Don't forget to leave comments!


    July 8, 2010 at 22:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. DBA

    I really think this is The Very LEast of the PROBLEM in AMERICA,Well actually it is,Alcohol,Drugs,Pot Are 1000 Times as deadly and DANGEROUS to others then SMOKING IS.I do agree Smoking may not be good for Some People Kids mostly,But You want to talk about the REAL DANGER The Three I mentioned,Now Alcohol By itself Kills ,makes Sick,And YES DOES HARM others Just as Much as the USER,Is a burden to Society and nobody is going to tell me its not,Now all the ANTI'S Never mention ALCOHOL,Just SMoking Passive SMoke,Its all a LIE Perputrated by the W.H.O and others to get the BAN and the TAXATION PASSED,Which is by the WAY FLAT OUT DISCRIMINTAION Plain and SIMPLE.ANyone,Yes Anyone who thinks SMOKING is WORSE is in ANOTHER WORLD if you smoke too much it lets your bosy Know QUicker than ALCOHOL,Pot,Or DRUGS and at a COST of $185 Billion a year to SOCIETY ALCOHOL Needs to be BANNED from ADVERTISING Just as SMOKING WAS,,If they really want to Get to the ROOT of all EVIL...ALCOHOL IS THE DEVIL.....Thanks

    July 9, 2010 at 05:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Coltfourfive

      Pot is 1000 times more deadly than cigs? Do me a favor and find me one death do to overdose of THC. Betchya can't.

      You sir, are an idiot.

      July 9, 2010 at 07:16 | Report abuse |
    • ENoUgH

      your capitalization makes me not even read what you have to say.

      July 9, 2010 at 09:03 | Report abuse |
  9. A. Lot

    Though it might be the case that some non-smokers try cigarettes once in a while while in HS, they are not the primary cause of concern. I mean: someone who is addicted to smoking cannot hide its vice at all. Then, you have a bunch of nuts who don't like smoking (flavor, smell, whatever) but do it regardless to appear as a "rebel".

    But more and more, fortunately, smoking is been seen as a thing that makes teens look sloppy and losers.

    July 9, 2010 at 07:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Mick

    I'm sure within 15 years everyone will be smoking electronic cigarettes anyways. Not that I recommend teens to start smoking anything ever, but whoever smokes whether teen or not, if they're going to anyways they should switch to e-cigs. Basically, it's a cigarette-shaped device that produces a tarless vapour that looks, tastes and feels like tobacco smoke, but with no carcinogens and less expensive than regular cigarettes. I can smoke it inside because it doesn't burn anything and it doesn't smell bad. I was even given permission to smoke it at my "smoke-free" office. Everytime someone sees me with it, they want one too. I found mine at http://www.mistycig.com. You don't even need tobacco to keep smoking. Good luck!

    July 9, 2010 at 09:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Marcia

    I did smoke at one point as a social thing but I stopped not only for my own well being but becuase i've seen what the long term effects of cigarrettes can do to a person. My grandfather for example was a 2 pack a day smoker for 32 years, and he now has COPD, chronic emphysema and bullous lung disease as well as other ailments. Yes, for some teens it may be just a social thing but , just think about the long term effects. I not olny say this because I work in the medical profession, but as a normal concerned citizen. It is ultimately the person's decision to consider quitting, but once you weigh out all your long term options, it will defnitely prolong your lifespan if you quit now. Just a thought...

    July 9, 2010 at 09:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Garrett

    Teens don't smoke Tobacco as much as they use to, cause they know it actually causes problems and the long term end result is death. They have moved over to Marijuana, because it actually relieves different pains, makes you feel good for a few hours and it generates fun for them. But sense it isn't legal, that is why most go to Alcohol, cause it is the closest they can get to Marijuana. And yet, Alcohol damages the body and the long term end result is death, by either consuming too much or spreading it out over the years. Marijuana has yet to kill from using too much or using over a long period of time.

    July 9, 2010 at 16:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. illy

    It's a sad thing to see high school kids smoke, and it's mostly casued by under the influence. "To fit in"

    July 18, 2010 at 12:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. College Dude

    I am in college and I can tell you that in college the smoking rate is 70%+. While most students don't smoke every day, they do go out on Friday nights and light up; myself included, mostly to relieve stress. I can also attest that those in the area of health statistics are deluding themselves if they really believe that the high school rate is 20%. I graduated just a few years ago and I can tell you that by looking at my yearbook and counting, my high school class was around 80%, but again, not on an everyday basis. If you add smokeless tobacco to that then the overall tobacco use is around 90%. Nothing has really changed, it is just being covered up better. In fact, when I was in school, we used to lie on these questionnaires because we believed that the schools used them to crack down on businesses selling cigarettes to us in the general area. Again, nothing has changed in years, don't delude yourself.

    August 20, 2010 at 02:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Frank

    How come all the people in that picture are attractive young white kids? Hmm?

    September 10, 2010 at 19:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. ericweedhub

    Smoking at a young age should not be encouraged.Parents should guide their children more than before now that they are adolescent.

    July 3, 2012 at 20:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Elliot Boldenow

    I do hope you never quit! This really among the best blogs Ive ever read. Youve got several ridiculous skill here, man. I merely wish you dont loose your style for the reason that you may be definitely one among the neatest blog writers out there. Make sure you continue the good work since the web needs someone like you getting the news out.


    September 10, 2017 at 20:22 | Report abuse | Reply

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