World No Tobacco Day: Protect Our Youth

At a glance

Learn what individuals and communities can do to help keep young people tobacco-free, or help them quit for good, on this World No Tobacco Day.

Montage of young people of various ethnicities having fun

Why observe World No Tobacco Day?

Using any kind of tobacco product is unsafe, especially for kids, teens, and young adults. But worldwide, at least 14 million young people aged 13 to 15 currently use tobacco products, according to CDC's 2006–2017 Global Youth Tobacco Survey.

Tobacco companies, meanwhile, spend billions of dollars every year on marketing tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, and e-cigarettes.

Since 1988, the World Health Organization (WHO) has used World No Tobacco Day to highlight the harmful effects of cigarettes and other tobacco products on a person's overall health. This year, WHO is focusing on preventing youth tobacco product use and the tobacco industry's attempts to attract youth.

This World No Tobacco Day, learn what individuals and communities can do to help keep young people tobacco-free, or help them quit for good.

U.S. youth and tobacco: the numbers

In 2019, about 40% of U.S. middle and high school students reported ever using any kind of tobacco product—including e-cigarettes—and 23% said they had used a tobacco product in the past 30 days.

Studies show that most adults in the United States who regularly use tobacco products started before the age of 18. Using any tobacco product, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe for young people.

Tobacco products—including cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and most e-cigarettes—contain nicotine, which is an addictive drug. Being exposed to nicotine can also harm brain development. A young person's brain is still developing up to age 25. Exposure to nicotine during these important years can harm the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control.

Secondhand smoke: a danger at home and abroad

At least 500 million people younger than 15 in 21 countries are exposed to secondhand smoke.

It's a problem in the United States:

  • 1 in 4 Americans, or about 58 million people, are exposed to secondhand smoke.
  • Children aged 3 to 11 have the highest exposure to secondhand smoke compared to any other age group.
  • African American children are more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke than children of other racial or ethnic groups.

Quitting smoking and adopting smokefree policies help protect the health of people who do not smoke.

Targeting young people

The younger a person is when they start using tobacco products, the more likely they are to become dependent on nicotine. The tobacco industry uses this information to attract youth and young people to their products through ads and sponsorships in stores, online, in media, and at cultural events.


Studies in the United States and other countries have shown that the more ads for tobacco products a young person sees, the more likely they are to use tobacco products. The U.S. Surgeon General has also said that seeing people smoke in movies makes youth more likely to smoke. Although the number of movies rated PG-13 or lower that feature smoking has gone down in the past 15 years, the films that do show smoking show it more often.

Tobacco flavors

The flavors in tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, make these products appealing to kids and teens. Since 2009, tobacco companies have not been allowed to sell cigarettes in flavors other than menthol in the United States. Still, youth are more likely than adults to smoke menthol cigarettes.

Flavoring is also a major driver of e-cigarette use among young people. More than 2 out of 3 youth who currently use e-cigarettes use flavored e-cigarettes, and flavors are a major reason they report starting to use e-cigarettes.

The danger of e-cigarettes for youth

Since 2014, most U.S. youth who said they had ever used tobacco products reported using e-cigarettes. This percentage has grown over time. E-cigarettes typically contain nicotine. Newer e-cigarettes use a new form of nicotine called nicotine salts, which make it easier to inhale higher levels of nicotine.

Because of the recent rise in e-cigarette use by U.S. middle and high school students, CDC offers resources for parents, teachers, and health care providers to help them talk to kids about e-cigarettes.

What you can do

Everyone—from individuals who influence youth directly to whole communities—can help prevent kids, teens, and young adults from trying and using tobacco products.

Teenagers reaching to touch the world
You can help prevent kids, teens, and young adults from trying and using tobacco products.

Parents and other caregivers can:

  • Set a good example by being tobacco-free. They can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit for help with quitting.
  • Talk to kids about the harms of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
  • Know what kids watch on screen and talk to them about tobacco use.
  • Tell kids you expect them not to use tobacco products or tell them to stop using them.
  • Refuse to give tobacco products to kids, teens, or young adults.

The Office of the Surgeon General has more tips for parents and caregivers to help keep young people tobacco-free.

Health care providers can:

  • Talk to their patients about the dangers of tobacco use. In a 2015 survey, only 1 out of 3 U.S. high schoolers said their doctor brought up smoking during a visit.
  • Ask patients if they use tobacco products and advise them to quit.

CDC offers resources and tools to help providers start the conversation about tobacco and quitting.

States and communities can:

  • Fund state tobacco control programs at the level CDC recommends.
  • Work to limit tobacco product advertising.
  • Use science-based strategies to prevent and reduce tobacco use. For example, states and communities can increase tobacco prices, conduct hard-hitting media campaigns, adopt comprehensive smoke-free laws, require licenses for tobacco sellers, and limit where tobacco products can be sold.
  • Provide barrier-free access to treatments proven to help people quit.

If everyone works together to keep youth safe from the harms of tobacco use, we can move further toward a healthier, smokefree world.

Quitting resources for youth

In 2019, more than half of U.S. young people who reported currently using tobacco products said they were seriously thinking about quitting. Quitting as soon as possible is the healthiest choice for mind and body.

State quitlines can connect people to resources like text support, counseling, and web-based chat. People who want to quit can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to find out what their state offers. Quitlines are also available in Spanish, Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), Korean, and Vietnamese.

  • 1-855-DÉJELO-YA (Spanish)
  • 1-800-838-8917 (Cantonese & Mandarin)
  • 1-800-556-5564 (Korean)
  • 1-800-778-8440 (Vietnamese)

SmokefreeTXT for Teens is a free mobile text messaging program for youth aged 13 to 19.

The quitSTART phone app offers custom tips, inspiration, and challenges.

Quitting resources for adults

At any age, it's never too late to quit. U.S. adults who want to quit can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or

  • 1-855-DÉJELO-YA (Spanish)
  • 1-800-838-8917 (Cantonese and Mandarin)
  • 1-800-556-5564 (Korean)
  • 1-800-778-8440 (Vietnamese)

They can also visit or to sign up for texting programs and download mobile apps.