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NIDA. (2003, March 1). Teen Smoking Dropped Dramatically in 2002. Retrieved from https://archives.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes/2003/03/teen-smoking-dropped-dramatically-in-2002

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March 01, 2003

Cigarette smoking by 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students decreased sharply in 2002, reaching the lowest levels ever reported by the annual Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey. The survey, which is supported by NIDA and conducted by the University of Michigan, began gathering smoking data for high school seniors in 1975 and added 8th- and 10th-graders to the survey in 1991. Smoking rates peaked in 1996 for students in grades 8 and 10 and in 1997 for seniors.

Annual Prevalence of Teen Smoking, 1991-2002

Year 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 00 01 02
Lifetime (Have ever smoked)
8th-graders 44.0 45.2 45.3 46.1 46.4 49.2* 47.3 45.7 44.1 40.5 36.6 31.4*
10th-graders 55.1 53.5 56.3 56.9 57.6 61.1 60.2 57.7 57.6 55.1 52.8 47.4
12th-graders 63.1 61.8 61.9 62.0 64.2 63.5 65.4 65.3 64.6 62.5 61.0 57.2
Current (Have smoked at least once in the past 30 days)
8th-graders 14.3 15.5 16.7 18.6 19.1 21.0 19.4 19.1 17.5 14.6 12.2 10.7
10th-graders 20.8 21.5 24.7 25.4 27.9 30.4 29.8 27.6 25.7 23.9 21.3 17.7
12th-graders 28.3 27.8 29.9 31.2 33.5 34.0 36.5 35.1 34.6 31.4 29.5 26.7
Daily (Smoked at least one cigarette per day during the past month)
8th-graders 7.2 7.0 8.3 8.8 9.3 10.4 9.0 8.8 8.1 7.4 5.5 5.1
10th-graders 12.6 12.3 14.2 14.6 16.3 18.3 18.0 15.8 15.9 14.0 12.2 10.1
12th-graders 18.5 17.2 19.0 19.4 21.6 22.2 24.6 22.4 23.1 20.6 19.0 16.9

* Bold black indicates highest level ever (years 1996 and 1997); bold blue indicates lowest level (year 2002)

In 2002, the percentages of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students who have ever smoked, are current smokers, or who smoke daily reached the lowest levels reported since the Monitoring the Future survey began gathering smoking data for all three grades in 1991.

The declines in cigarette smoking reported in 2002 occurred across the board--among white, African-American, and Hispanic boys and girls in all regions of the country. The cumulative decline in teen smoking overall is quite dramatic. Over the last 6 years, the proportion of eighth-graders who reported ever having smoked has dropped from 49.2 percent to 31.4 percent.

Group of Teens

The steady decrease in smoking rates among young Americans parallels several years in which increased proportions of teens said they believe there is a "great" health risk associated with cigarette smoking and expressed disapproval of pack-a-day smokers. Roughly 60 percent of 10th- and 12th-graders and 64 percent of 8th-graders agreed with the statement, "I think becoming a smoker reflects poor judgment."

"Young people are getting the message, and increased awareness of the risks of smoking is being translated into better choices about behavior," notes NIDA Acting Director Dr. Glen Hanson. "Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death and sickness in this country. Nearly all adults who smoke began before age 18, so every young person's decision not to smoke represents a longer and more productive life."

The 2002 survey included responses from roughly 15,000 8th-graders, 14,000 10th-graders, and 13,000 seniors. Students were asked about lifetime use (Have you ever smoked a cigarette?), current use (Have you smoked at all in the past 30 days?), and daily use (Have you smoked at least once per day for the past 30 days?) of cigarettes. Students also were asked if they believed smoking one or more packs of cigarettes per day involved "no risk," "slight risk," "moderate risk," or "high risk" and if they "disapprove," "strongly disapprove," or "don't disapprove" of people smoking one or more packs of cigarettes per day.

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