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August 25, 2000
CDC, Office on Smoking and Health
(770) 488–5493

Trends in Cigarette Smoking
Among U.S. High School Students

  • Current smoking rates among U.S. high school students may have leveled or begun to decline during the late 1990s (34.8% in 1995, 36.4% in 1997, and 34.8% in 1999) following years of increased rates. Despite this finding, trends need to be closely monitored in future surveys to evaluate if smoking rates have peaked and are beginning to decline among high school students.
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  • The rate of smoking among male high school students appears to be leveling or possibly declining but the smoking rate among female high school students remains virtually unchanged.
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  • Smoking rates for high school males were 35.4% in 1995, 37.7% in 1997, and back down to 34.7% in 1999. Smoking rates for high school females were 34.3% in 1995, 34.7% in 1997, and 34.9% in 1999.
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  • In 1991, white students (30.9%) were 2.5 times more likely than black students (12.6%) and 1.2 times more likely than Hispanic students (25.3%) to report current smoking. Similar trends were found in 1999, when white students (38.6%) were twice as likely to smoke as African-American students (19.7%) and were 1.2 times more likely to report current smoking as Hispanic students (32.7%).
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  • Smoking rates among black students appeared to level or possibly decline later in the decade (19.2% in 1995; 22.7% in 1997; and 19.7% in 1999). Among black male students the leveling or possible decline in smoking was particularly notable (27.8% in 1995; 28.2% in 1997; and 21.8% in 1999).
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  • Ninth grade students experienced a leveling or possible decline in smoking rates later in the decade (31.2% in 1995; 33.4% in 1997; and 27.6% in 1999). In comparison, current smoking among 12-grade students continued to rise each year.
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  • According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Reducing Tobacco Use, implementing effective educational programs for preventing tobacco use could postpone or prevent smoking onset in 20% to 40% of U.S. adolescents.
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  • Existing data suggest that evidence-based curricula and national guidelines have not been widely adopted. Less than 5% of schools nationwide are implementing the major components of CDC’s Guidelines for School Health Programs to Prevent Tobacco Use and Addiction.
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  • Smoking rates among teens could be cut in half within the decade, meeting the Healthy People 2010 objectives related to youth tobacco use, if the nation would fully implement anti-smoking approaches proven to be effective.

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