Increasingly Teens Find Smoking A Dirty Habit

December 17, 2008 - The majority of teenagers, smoking is just out of vogue. Many teens say they would rather not date someone who smoked. The majority believe it reflects poorly on your judgment. These are some findings out of an annual survey on adolescent behavior from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. Altogether more than 45,000 high school students at 400 schools were interviewed.

The survey also finds:
* Teen smoking rates dropped in 2008, now lower than the 1990s
* 12.6 percent of high school students had a cigarette in the last month compared to 13.6 last year
* 7 percent of eighth-graders are smoking, down from 21 percent in 1996
* 12 percent of 10-th graders are smoking , down from more than 30 percent in 1996
* 21 percent of eighth-graders said they had tried smoking, down from 49 percent in 1996

The survey found that 20 percent of high school seniors smoke, a decline from one-third in 1996.

What does this say about smoking? The study’s principal investigator, Lloyd Johnston, says that teens finally believe smoking is a “dirty habit” that can harm your health, despite the positive media images. “For years and years, the industry pitch was that smoking makes you sexy and attractive to the opposite sex. It turns out the absolute opposite is true. It projects a negative image, for both girls and boys.”

The problem is not of supply either. The survey finds that more than half of eighth-graders said they could obtain cigarettes easily. Declining rates of smoking are not just seen among teens. For the first time since the mid-1960s, the number of Americans who smoke cigarettes has fallen below 20 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2007, the prevalence of smoking fell to 19.8 percent, from 20.8 percent in 2006, according to a recent CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

“While this is good news, deaths related to cigarette smoking are still on the rise,” Matthew McKenna, director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health tells WebMD. Nearly one in five American adults smoke cigarettes and many former smokers are falling back to the habit again. “We believe the decline in proportion is threefold - a response to excise taxes that have made cigarettes more expensive, smoke-free laws and the availability of cessation medications,” McKenna says.

Reference: Increasingly Teens Find Smoking A Dirty Habit, by Jane Akre,, December 16, 2008.