Teen smoking is continuing to drop but at a slower rate than before, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says in its latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. It uses that report to call for more comprehensive tobacco control policies and enforcement.
Based on the nationwide, school-based National Youth Tobacco Survey of 22,000 6th- to 12th-graders, the report found significant differences in smoking rates from 2000 to 2009, but statistically insignificant differences between 2006 and 2009.
For instance, the rate of current use of any tobacco product among middle school students dipped from 15.1 percent in 2000 to 8.2 percent in 2009, and from 34.5 percent to 23.9 percent for high school students. Similar rates of decline were noticed for cigarette-only use and cigarette smoking experimentation for high school and middle school students during the past decade.
But when comparing 2006 and 2009, the rates declined slightly: from 9.5 percent in 2006 to 8.2 percent in 2009 for any tobacco product use among middle schoolers, and from 6.3 percent to 5.2 percent for cigarette-only use among middle schoolers. The survey found similar declines among high schoolers. The researchers called those changes statistically insignificant.
The actual rates of youth smoking are probably higher, because the study did not survey school dropouts, who are more prone to tobacco use, the CDC said.
A few months ago, another federal report said the national rates of tobacco sales to minors showed a slight increase this past year, after declining every year since 1997.
Researchers include in their report a brief pitch for increased funding to tobacco control programs and more enforcement of federal regulations requiring larger, more graphic health warnings on cigarette packages and in advertisements. New federal regulations designed to restrict youth tobacco use took effect in June.
Last December, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids reported that anti-tobacco program funding has been declining in recent years.
The results of the new report might indicate that tobacco prevention efforts aimed at children and teens were so effective over the past few decades that youth smoking has dropped as low as it can reasonably go. Still, the 17.2 percent of high schoolers who reported smoking cigarettes in 2009 falls above a target goal of no more than 16 percent set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ health objectives, titled Healthy People 2010.
The tobacco article is on pages 1063-1068 of the CDC report.