Fewer teens are smoking cigarettes than ever before, according to the results from an annual survey of thousands of students in the eighth, 10th and 12th grades.
Just 10.6 percent of respondents said they had smoked a cigarette at some point over the past 30 days, down by slightly over a percentage point from the year before. Researchers noted that, even though one percentage point may not seem like a big decline, the current trends among young people reveal that the public campaign against tobacco use has made significant progress — particularly since most lifelong smokers first pick up the habit in their teenage years:
Longer-term trends showed teen smoking rates dropping by about three-fourths among eighth graders, two-thirds among 10th graders and by half among 12th graders since a peak in the mid-1990s, researchers said.
One reason cited by experts is that the proportion of students who have ever tried smoking has declined sharply. Whereas nearly half of all eighth graders had tried cigarettes in 1996, just 16 percent had done so this year.
Teen attitudes toward smoking also continued to become more negative. For example, 80 percent of teens said they preferred to date nonsmokers in 2012.
Nevertheless, anti-smoking advocates point out that efforts to combat Big Tobacco aren’t over yet, particularly since austerity policies have led states to slash funding for their anti-smoking campaigns. A federal court recently ruled that tobacco companies have “deliberately deceived the American public” about the dangers of smoking, but that doesn’t mean the tobacco industry has completely stopped marketing their products to children.
“We cannot let our guard down when the tobacco industry still spends $8.5 billion a year — nearly $1 million ever hour — to market its deadly and addictive products and is pushing new products…that entice youth,” Susan Liss, executive director for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told Reuters.