Teenage Smoking Rate Reaches Lowest Level in a Decade, According to New CDC Report
The teenage smoking rate fell to 28.5% last year -- the lowest level since 1991 -- according to a new study in this week's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (McKenna, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 5/17). CDC researchers questioned 13,601 students between grades nine and twelve nationwide, as part of the biennial Youth Risk Behavior Survey, and found that the number of teenagers who had tried cigarette smoking during their lives fell to 63.9% in 2001, down from 70.2% in 1997 (McClam, AP/Chicago Tribune, 5/16). The survey also found:
- Boys are more likely to smoke than girls: In 2001, 29.2% of male high school students and 27.7% of female students had smoked at least once in the previous month.
- Seniors are more likely to smoke than freshmen: In 2001, 35.2% of 12th-graders smoked, compared to 23.9% of ninth-graders.
- Non-Hispanic whites are more likely to smoke than minority teens: In 2001, 31.9% of white high school students, 26.6% of Hispanic students and 14.7% of black students had smoked once in the previous month.
Health officials attributed the decline to "stiff" cigarette taxes and "persistent" anti-smoking education programs. Despite the decline, Terry Pechacek of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health said "we need a continued effort" to reduce teen rates smoking even further. The CDC has set a goal to reduce teen smoking rates to 16% by 2010 (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 5/17). The average retail price of cigarettes increased 70% from December 1997 to 2001, and CDC analysts say that makes cigarettes less affordable for children. Calling the report "terrific news", Matthew Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said, "This is dramatic evidence that the combination of tax increases and prevention programs are the equivalent of a vaccine" (AP/Chicago Tribune, 5/16).
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