Current cigarette smoking among 12- to 17-year-olds fell significantly from 2002 to 2010 in 41 states, according to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The report also showed that during the same period, adolescent perception of risk from cigarette smoking has remained unchanged in most states.
Adolescent cigarette use nationwide declined from 12.6 percent to 8.7 percent, but significant differences remained among states. For example, Wyoming had the nation’s highest rate of 13.5 percent – more than double the rate of 5.9 percent for Utah, the state with the nation’s lowest rate. The study defined current use as smoking in the past month.
The report showed that youths' perception of great risk of harm from smoking one pack per day or more rose from 63.7 percent to 65.4 percent overall. However, the rate increased in only five states; the remaining states stayed at about the same level.
The report,“State Estimates of Adolescent Cigarette Use and Perceptions of Risk of Smoking: 2009 and 2010,” is based on findings from SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports for the years 2002-2003 and 2009-2010.
Other research has shown that adolescents’ attitudes about the risks may affect their likelihood of smoking (i.e., the prevalence of cigarette use is lower among adolescents who perceive high risk of harm from engaging in it).
“The Surgeon General’s Report on Preventing Tobacco Use among Youth and Young Adults notes that smoking is the nation’s leading cause of preventable death," said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. "Although this report shows that considerable progress has been made in lowering adolescent cigarette smoking, the sad, unacceptable fact remains that in many states about one in 10 adolescents smoked cigarettes in the past month. The report also shows that we must collectively redouble our efforts to better educate adolescents about the risks of tobacco, and continue to work with every state and community to promote effective tobacco use prevention and recovery programs.”
SAMHSA has several collaborative tobacco prevention efforts with states and communities, including the Synar program, a federal and state partnership aimed at ending illegal tobacco sales to minors. This program requires the 50 states, District of Columbia, and eight U.S. territories to enact and enforce state laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to individuals under the age of 18. Data on retail tobacco sales to youth show a decline from 40.1 percent to 8.5 percent in 15 years.
Tobacco use is the leading cause of premature and preventable death in the United States. Today marks the 37th annual Great American Smokeout, a day the American Cancer Society encourages Americans to quit or make a plan to quit smoking. For more information on how to successfully avoid or end tobacco use, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services comprehensive tobacco prevention website at www.BeTobaccoFree.gov.
SAMHSA is a public health agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. Its mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.