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High School Students Who Tried to Quit Smoking Cigarettes—United States, 2007

This page is archived for historical purposes and is no longer being updated.

May 01, 2009 / Vol. 58 / No. 16

MMWR Highlights

This analysis of data from the 2007 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) examined the following behaviors:

  • Ever smoked cigarettes daily and tried to quit during the 12 months before the survey.
  • Ever smoked cigarettes daily, tried to quit during the past 12 months before the survey, and were successful.

Significant findings regarding quitting behavior

  • Overall, 60.9% of students who ever smoked cigarettes daily tried to quit.
  • Prevalence of this behavior did not vary by grade.
  • However, prevalence was higher among female students (67.3%) than male students (55.5%), and higher among black students (68.1%) than Hispanic students (54.1%).
  • Overall, 12.2% of students who ever smoked cigarettes daily, tried to quit and were successful.
  • Prevalence of success in quitting did not vary by sex or race/ethnicity.
  • More students in 9th grade (22.9%) than in 10th grade (10.7%), 11th grade (8.8 %) and 12th grade (10.0%) tried to quit smoking cigarettes and were successful.


  • It is possible that higher quitting success rates among 9th-grade students compared to students in other grades were due to lower levels of dependency from smoking fewer cigarettes per day or having been smoking for shorter periods of time.
    • These data suggest it may be important to target young smokers with cessation counseling while their likelihood of success of quitting is greatest.
  • Because many students had attempted to quit smoking, but few were successful, comprehensive tobacco control programs need to continue to be implemented in community-based interventions to prevent initiation, increase cessation, and promote the use of evidence-based cessation strategies for youth.

Background on Youth Initiation & Cessation

  • Most adult smokers in the United States started using cigarettes before the age of 18.
  • Previous research indicates that nicotine dependence maintains tobacco use, makes quitting difficult, and may be established rapidly among some adolescents.
  • Public Health Service (PHS) guidelines on treating tobacco use recommend that adolescent smokers be provided with counseling interventions to aid them in quitting smoking.
  • Despite the use of counseling that approximately doubles quit rates in the studies on youth cessation reviewed by the PHS guideline, absolute abstinence rates of those who receive counseling remain quite low (11.6% quit rate at 6 months), suggesting the need for improved counseling interventions for adolescents.
  • Other research has also shown that youth often do not use evidence-based quit methods, which may be one reason why many are unsuccessful.

CDC's Youth Risk Behavior Survey

  • The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) is a nationally representative survey of students in grades 9–12 in the United States.
  • The YRBS is a component of the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, which measures the prevalence of health risk behaviors among high school students through biennial national, state, and local surveys.
  • The national YRBS uses a three-stage cluster sample design to obtain cross-sectional data representative of public- and private-school students in grades 9–12 in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Students complete school-based, anonymous, self-administered questionnaires that examine the prevalence of health risk behaviors, including tobacco use.