July 9, 2010 - Understanding the trends in the prevalence of cigarette smoking among youths enables policy makers to target prevention resources more effectively. Every 2 years, CDC analyzes data from the national Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) to evaluate trends in cigarette use among high school students in the United States.
This report updates a previous report and describes results of CDC’s 2010 analysis of YRBS data from 1991–2009 for three measures: ever smoked cigarettes, current
cigarette use, and current frequent cigarette use. For ever smoked cigarettes, the prevalence did not change from 1991 (70.1%) to 1999 (70.4%), declined to 58.4% in 2003, and then declined more gradually, to 46.3% in 2009. For current cigarette use, the prevalence increased from 27.5% in 1991 to 36.4% in 1997, declined to 21.9% in 2003, and then declined more gradually, to 19.5% in 2009. For current frequent cigarette use, the prevalence increased from 12.7% in 1991 to 16.8% in 1999, declined to 9.7% in 2003, and then declined more gradually, to 7.3% in 2009. For all three measures, rates began to decline in the late 1990s, but the rate of decline slowed during 2003–2009. (Cigarette Use Among High School Students — United States, 1991–2009, MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Vol. 59 / No. 26, 7/9/2010.)
The following is a statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids..
CDC Survey Shows Youth Smoking Continues to Decline Slowly, But More Must Be Done to Accelerate Progress. Survey results show that the nation continues to make gradual progress in reducing youth smoking, but declines have slowed significantly since 2003 and nearly one in five high school students still smoke.
This survey is consistent with others that have found a slowing and even stalling of smoking declines among both youth and adults. These results send a powerful message to elected officials at all levels: We know how to win the fight against tobacco – the nation's number one cause of preventable death – but our ultimate success depends on resisting complacency and more aggressively implementing proven strategies. These include well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs, higher tobacco taxes, smoke-free air laws, and effective regulation of tobacco products and marketing.
The good news in the CDC's 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey is that the high school smoking rate (the percentage who smoked in the past month) declined to 19.5 percent in 2009. This is the first time it has fallen below 20 percent and the lowest rate since this survey was started in 1991. Altogether, high school smoking has declined by 46 percent since peaking at 36.4 percent in 1997. This is a remarkable public health success story. In addition, the percentage of high school students who have ever tried cigarettes has fallen under 50 percent for the first time (to 46.3 percent in 2009 from a high of 71.3 percent in 1995).
The bad news is that high school smoking declined by just 11 percent between 2003 and 2009 (from 21.9 to 19.5 percent), compared to a 40 percent decline between 1997 and 2003 (from 36.4 to 21.9 percent).
It is important to note that this survey was conducted primarily in January-March 2009, before the federal cigarette tax was increased by 61 cents a pack on April 1, 20009, and before the June 22, 2009, enactment of the new federal law granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority over tobacco products. Tobacco companies have reported large declines in cigarette sales since the cigarette tax increase, and the FDA last month implemented new restrictions on tobacco marketing and sales to children. Future surveys will indicate the impact of these measures on smoking rates.
While today's CDC report focused on cigarette smoking, the same survey also found a troubling increase in smokeless tobacco use in recent years. Between 2003 and 2009, there was a 33 percent increase in smokeless tobacco use among high school students (from 6.7 to 8.9 percent reporting smokeless tobacco use in the past month). Among high school boys, there was a 36 percent increase (from 11 to 15 percent). This increase, which has also been found in other surveys, coincides with a large increase in smokeless tobacco marketing and the introduction of numerous new smokeless tobacco products, several shaped, flavored and packaged like candy. These findings underscore the need to enact measures that discourage all tobacco use, not just cigarette smoking.
Why have smoking declines slowed in recent years? The CDC and other experts have cited several factors, including continued heavy spending on tobacco marketing, deep discounting by the tobacco companies that have kept cigarette prices flat despite tax increases, and cuts to tobacco prevention and cessation programs.
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