Nearly 23 percent of U.S. high school students use tobacco products, according to the results of the Centers for Disease Control’s National Youth Tobacco Survey, meaning that the disease and death associated with tobacco use will continue for years to come.
Nearly all tobacco use in the United States begins during adolescence and early adulthood, so tobacco use among teenagers is a strong indicator of future tobacco use and tobacco-related health problems. A 2014 report from the U.S. surgeon general estimated that around 5.6 million current teenagers under the age of 17 will die of tobacco-related health problems if current smoking rates among this age group persist.
Use of tobacco products is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in this country. Approximately one-fifth of all deaths from preventable causes in the U.S. are due to tobacco use.
Cigarettes, Cigars Most Popular Products Among Teens
The newly released results of the annual survey show that 22.9 percent of high school students reported current (at least once in the last 30 days) use of tobacco products, along with 6.5 percent of middle school students.
The students were asked about their use of 10 different tobacco products, which were divided into two categories: combustible products and all other types. The list of combustible tobacco products consisted of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, bidis, hookahs and kreteks, while the list of remaining products consisted of electronic cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, snus and dissolvable tobacco.
Cigarettes were the most popular type of tobacco product among high school students, with 12.7 percent of the respondents reporting current cigarette smoking. Cigars were almost as popular, with 11.9 percent of high school students reporting that they currently smoked cigars. Overall, combustible tobacco products were by far the most popular among this age group, with 20.7 percent of respondents reporting that they currently used combustible products only or in addition to other products.
Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, have been in the news due to their rapidly growing popularity and questions about their long-term safety. E-cigarettes were only the fifth-most popular tobacco product among high school students, with 4.5 percent reporting use of these products.
Most Regular Smokers First Try Tobacco In Their Teens
This new report is concerning because it shows that tobacco use is still high among teenagers, which means that overall tobacco use is likely to remain high for years to come. The vast majority of people who become regular smokers tried their first cigarette by the time they were 18. In addition, 75 percent of people who begin to smoke as teenagers will continue to smoke after they become adults.
In recent decades, anti-smoking campaigns have largely focused on young people, hoping to discourage them from beginning to use tobacco products. The nicotine in tobacco products makes them so addictive and so hard to quit that it is much more difficult to reduce smoking rates once people have developed the habit.
As of 2012, the CDC estimated that the national smoking rate of adults in the U.S. was 18.1 percent and that more than 16 million people currently suffer from diseases related to chronic cigarette smoking. These diseases in turn cause approximately 480,000 deaths in this country per year.
See How Important Parents’ Influence Is When It Comes To Teens’ Choices