Students Smoking Fewer Cigarettes, But Cigar Use Up

By Nirvi Shah — August 09, 2012 2 min read
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A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that, while cigarette smoking among American middle and high school students has been declining, the use of cigars is rising among some groups of students.

Among middle and high school students, cigarette use in 2011 was about 4.3 percent and 15.8 percent, respectively, compared with 10.7 percent and almost 30 percent in 2000, the CDC found, analyzing results from the 2011 National Youth Tobacco Survey, which included about 19,000 students.

The survey asked students about a range of tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars—including cigarillos and little cigars—smokeless tobacco, pipes, bidis, and kreteks, or clove cigarettes and whether they had used any of these within the last 30 days.

Hiking the price of tobacco products, limiting ads, and media campaigns have worked at getting kids to stop smoking or keep them from starting, the CDC said, and those interventions should continue as part of a national comprehensive anti-tobacco program.

That’s because of findings including this one: Among black high school students, cigar use increased from 7.1 percent in 2009 to 11.7 percent in 2011, which the CDC said was significant. Cigar use includes the use of cigarette-like cigars that can be packaged and smoked like typical cigarettes, but are taxed at a lower rate, making them more appealing and accessible to youth. While they contain the same toxic chemicals as cigarettes, no cigars are subject to restrictions on flavorings and the use of descriptors, such as “light” or “low tar,” that can be misleading, according to the report.

In addition, the CDC found that about 25 percent of high school boys and more than 17 percent of high school girls used some form of smoked tobacco product in 2011, while smokeless tobacco use among high school males—at 12.9 percent—was eight times higher than among high school females.

“An overall decline in tobacco use is good news, but although four out of five teens don’t smoke, far too many kids start to smoke every day,” CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden said in a statement. “Most tobacco use begins and becomes established during adolescence. This report is further evidence that we need to do more to prevent our nation’s youth from establishing a deadly addiction to tobacco.”

Another recent study found that while cigarette smoking has declined among teenagers, pot smoking is on the rise.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.