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Smoking Cessation Health Center

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1 in 5 High School Kids Still Smoking

New Numbers Show Steady Drop in Teen Smoking

WebMD Health News

June 17, 2004 -- Fewer high-school kids now smoke than any time in the last 12 years. Yet more than one in five students is still smoking, the CDC reports.

Half of those kids -- one in 10 high school students -- smoke a lot. Yet the overall numbers show a steady decline, according to the latest figures from the CDC's Youth Risk Behavior Survey. High school smoking is at its lowest level since the survey began.

Here are the numbers, as reported in the June 18 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report:

  • In 1999, 70% of high school kids said they'd ever used cigarettes. That dropped to 58% in 2003.
  • In 1991, 27.5% of high school kids said they were current smokers. That went up to 36% in 1997 but dropped to 22% in 2003.
  • In 1991, 12.7% of high school kids said they smoked a lot -- on at least 20 of the last 30 days. Frequent smokers peaked at 17% of high school kids in 1999 but dropped to 10% in 2003.

This decline in teen smoking came about despite an increase in tobacco company advertising and promotion. In 1997, the companies spent $5.7 billion trying to get people to smoke. In 2001, they spent $11.2 billion.

Who's still smoking? White students are significantly more likely than black or Hispanic students to say they smoke. This difference is almost entirely due to the higher rate of smoking among white female students.

The CDC's goal is to cut teen smoking even further, to at least 16% of high school kids by 2010. To reach this goal, they urge continued efforts in:

  • Targeted, effective media campaigns
  • Reducing depictions of smoking in entertainment media
  • Discouraging family and friends from giving cigarettes to high school students
  • Promoting smoke-free homes
  • Instituting school-based antismoking programs in combination with community efforts
  • Reducing the number of parents who smoke

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