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Health & Parenting

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Decline in Teen Smoking Rate Levels Off

CDC Study Shows 19.5% of High School Students Report Current Cigarette Use

Call for New Antismoking Efforts

Pechacek tells WebMD that the latest findings emphasize a need to return teen smoking trends to the more rapid rate of decline seen from the late 1990s through 2003.

Efforts should include expansion of counter-advertising media campaigns, reduction of tobacco advertising, promotions, and availability of cigarettes, and a renewed push for laws mandating tobacco-free environments.

Also, he says, cigarette prices ought to be increased through state excise taxes.

The report, using data from the national Youth Risk Behavior Survey, questioned students in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. "Ever-smoked" was defined as ever trying cigarettes, even a puff or two; "current smoking" was defined as smoking on at least one day during the 30 days prior to the survey. "Current frequent smokers" were those who said they smoked on 20 or more days during the past 30.

Pechacek tells WebMD that the implications of the findings "are that far, far too many youths who could have been prevented from smoking are on the pathway to premature death."

He adds: "We are disappointed at the slowing. We are not surprised because effective prevention efforts have been reduced due to budget cutbacks at the state level, and tobacco use has become less of a priority issue. Complacency set in that we were making progress."

"We know what works," Pechacek tells WebMD. "It's a matter of doing what we know can be effective," including efforts to make smoking less socially acceptable.

"The good news is that four out of five youths are not smoking, and rates of ever-smoking have come down to the lowest levels we have ever seen in the survey," Pechacek says.

"The bad news is, far too many kids are continuing to develop the nicotine addiction, and the rates of 19.5% current smokers are much higher than they could be if we were effectively doing the programs that we know would prevent youth smoking," he says.

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