1997 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse
Cigarette Use, by Age Group (Tables 8.1 to 8.4)
Approximately 33% of the population aged 12 or older had smoked within the past year (Table 8.2). A similar percentage (about 30%) were current smokers, meaning that they had smoked within the past 30 days (Table 8.3). As shown in Tables 2.3 and 2.4 in Chapter 2, these 1997 rates for past year and current cigarette use among the total population were not significantly different from corresponding rates since 1991. However, rates of current cigarette use increased significantly from 1996 to 1997 for youths aged 12 to 13 (from 7% to 10%), blacks (from 12% to 15%), people living in small metropolitan areas (from 17% to 22%), and those living in the West (from 16% to 19%) (OAS, 1998c, Tables 25 and 30).
More than one-fourth of youths aged 12 to 17 had at least tried a cigarette in the past year, and about one-fifth had done so in the past month. In addition, middle adults aged 26 to 34 were significantly more likely than older adults aged 35 or older to have smoked in the past year or past month.
Young adults aged 18 to 25, however, were significantly more likely to have smoked within the past year or past month compared with people in any other age group. In particular, about 46% of young adults had smoked in the past year, and 41% had smoked in the past month. Trend data from Chapter 2 indicate that the rates of past year and current cigarette use among young adults have increased significantly since the mid-1990s, when they had reached a low point (Tables 2.6 and 2.8). Specifically, the rate of current cigarette use among young adults aged 18 to 25 increased significantly from 35% in 1994 to 41% in 1997.
Table 8.4 displays the prevalence of lifetime, past year, and current cigarette use for finer age group divisions. The steepest age gradient in the prevalence of lifetime smoking occurs in the teenage years and early 20s. In particular, only about 20% of teens aged 12 or 13 had ever smoked. For ages 14 and 15, the prevalence of lifetime smoking nearly doubled (39%), and for ages 16 and 17, more than half of these youths had tried a cigarette at some point in their lifetime. Nearly two-thirds of young adults aged 18 to 20 had ever smoked, but this rate increased by only about five percentage points for young adults aged 21 to 25.
The prevalence of both past year and past month smoking increases rapidly throughout adolescence and young adulthood, reaching a peak when people are in their late teens or early 20s. Beyond that point, the prevalence begins to decline. For example, about 41% of young adults aged 18 to 20 and about 40% of adults aged 21 to 25 were current (i.e., past month) smokers. About one-third of adults aged 26 to 34 were current smokers. Fewer than 30% of adults aged 45 or older were current smokers.
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