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Teens Smoking Less Butt . . .

Only about 22% of high school students smoked cigarettes in 2003 as compared to 36% in 1997, according to a new Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released this week by the CDC. Not only do these numbers appear to be moving in the right direction but, if fewer students begin smoking in high school, it is hoped that this downward trend will eventually translate into fewer lifetime cigarette smokers.

Comment: Although the results of this report are encouraging, the numbers mean that at least 1 in 5 high school students is still smoking -- in spite of the increased cost and the greater difficulty for minors to purchase cigarettes. Stopping cigarette smoking remains a challenge for our society as a whole. Just as fewer teen smokers should translate into fewer smoking adults, fewer adults smoking now should correspond to fewer teens taking up the unhealthy habit. When it comes to smoking, adults are key role models for kids. If kids see Gwyneth Paltrow smoking, that sets a bad example.

Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editors,

Cigarette Use Among High School Students --- United States, 1991--2003

Cigarette use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States (1). One of the national health objectives for 2010 is to reduce the prevalence of current cigarette use among high school students to <16% (objective no. 27-2b) (1). To examine changes in cigarette use among high school students in the United States during 1991--2003, CDC analyzed data from the national Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). This report summarizes the results of that analysis, which indicated that although 1) the prevalence of lifetime cigarette use was stable among high school students during the 1990s and 2) the prevalence of both current and current frequent cigarette use increased into the late 1990s, all three behaviors had declined significantly by 2003. Prevention efforts must be sustained to ensure this pattern continues and the 2010 objective is achieved.