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U.S. Teens Are Smoking Less

Potera, Carol

AJN, American Journal of Nursing: August 2015 - Volume 115 - Issue 8 - p 17
doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000470388.79781.8c
In the News

But the increase in e-cigarettes is dragging down the gains.

Carol Potera

The good news is that, compared with 10 years ago, teen smoking didn't increase in any state, and it dropped significantly in all but one.

According to a May report on adolescent tobacco use from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (available at, average smoking rates among youths 12 to 17 years of age dropped from 12.6% in 2003 to 6.1% in 2013. Current teen smoking rates varied across states, ranging from 4.3% in California to 9.5% in Kentucky.

Despite these reductions in conventional smoking, the use (at least once a month) of e-cigarettes has tripled, and rates of hookah smoking doubled from 2013 to 2014, according to a report in the April 17 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. This translates into 2.4 million youths using e-cigarettes and 1.6 million using hookahs.

In 2014, the tobacco products most used by high school students were e-cigarettes (13.4%), hookahs (9.4%), cigarettes (9.2%), cigars (8.2%), and smokeless tobacco (5.5%). Teens who never smoked conventional cigarettes but who have tried e-cigarettes are twice as likely to start smoking conventional cigarettes, compared with those who never smoked e-cigarettes.

Any nicotine exposure during adolescence can adversely affect brain development and lead to tobacco addiction.

Despite the moderately good news on smoking rates, tobacco use in teens is a “pediatric epidemic,” according to the surgeon general.

If the current smoking trends continue, 5.6 million youths alive today will die prematurely. Prevention and control measures that reduce smoking in this age group can improve the nation's short- and long-term health.—Carol Potera

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