As we get ready to ring in a new year, Monitoring the Future, an annual report funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, found cigarette use among U.S. teenagers fell to historic lows and a four-year rise in marijuana use appears to have leveled off.
The report indicated the number of teenagers who reported smoking cigarettes in the prior 30 days fell to 10.6% this year from 11.7% in 2011, the lowest level recorded since the survey began in 1975. The survey tracks tobacco, drug and alcohol use, as well as attitudes about drug risk among 45,000 students in eighth, 10th and 12th grades.
Current smoking rates have declined so sharply because the number of students who ever tried smoking has fallen quite dramatically. In 1996, 49% of 8th graders had tried cigarettes, but by 2012 only 16% had done so. We know that nearly 90% of adults who smoke daily started smoking by age 18; 99% started by age 26. So, the decrease in the initiation of smoking among 8th graders is important.
But we must remain vigilant in our work. The significant use of other tobacco products threatens to offset the gains made in reducing cigarette use by teens. Since 2010, there’s been only modest declines in smokeless tobacco use in all three grades. And health officials are concerned about teens smoking small cigars and hookahs.
Lloyd Johnston, the principal investigator of the study, said, “Future progress in lowering teen smoking rates is likely to depend on there being further changes in the external environment–changes such as raising cigarette taxes, further limiting where smoking is permitted, bringing back broad-based anti-smoking ad campaigns, and making quit-smoking programs more available.”
We couldn’t agree more. The historic declines in smoking rates in NYC (down to 14% in 2010) show we know what works. We need to do more to bring down smoking rates even more and ensure our youth do not get lured into a lifetime of tobacco addiction.
Our children are our future. Let’s ensure it’s a healthy one for many New Years to come.