Cigarette use among high school students on slow decline

ATLANTA As many as 1-in-5 high school students are still smoking, according to a report published last week in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Current cigarette use among high school students nationwide began to decline in the late 1990s, but the rate of decline slowed from 2003 to 2009. Since 2003, the rate of decline in current cigarette use slowed or leveled off for all of the racial/ethnic -- white, Hispanic, and black -- and gender subgroups, except black female students for whom rates of current cigarette use showed no slowing or leveling off after 1999.

Because of this slower rate of decline, the United States has not met its national 2010 health objective of reducing cigarette use among high school students to 16% or less. “Although 4-of-5 don't smoke, it's discouraging to see that current smoking did not continue to decline more rapidly among youth," stated CDC director Thomas Frieden. "Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in this country, and 9-out-of-10 adults started smoking in their teens or earlier. The slow progress since 2003 tells us that much more needs to be done to reduce youth smoking."

The report found that the percentage of students who reported current cigarette use increased from 27.5% in 1991 to 36.4% in 1997, declined sharply to 21.9% in 2003, and declined more gradually to 19.5% in 2009.

Effective strategies to address cigarette smoking by young people include expanded counter-advertising mass media campaigns; reduction to tobacco advertising, promotions and availability of tobacco products; tobacco-free environments; programs that promote changes in school norms and higher tobacco prices through state excise tax increases, the CDC suggested.

For an online version of the MMWR report, visit CDC.gov/mmwr.