Student Well-Being

Cigarette Use Drops As Teens Getting Hookah-ed on Smoking

By Nirvi Shah — November 30, 2012 2 min read
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As more evidence that national campaigns warning about the dangers of smoking are working, a new state-by-state look at teen smoking habits finds that from 2002 to 2010, cigarette smoking among 12- to 17-year-olds fell in 41 states.

The report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration showed that during that time, adolescent cigarette use nationwide declined from 12.6 percent to 8.7 percent, although rates in individual states varied widely. Wyoming had the nation’s highest rate, at 13.5 percent, which was more than double the rate of 5.9 percent for Utah, the state with the nation’s lowest rate. The study defined current use as smoking in the past month.

The report showed that youths’ perception of great risk of harm from smoking one pack per day or more rose from 63.7 percent to 65.4 percent overall. However, the rate increased in only five states; the remaining states stayed at about the same level.

“Although this report shows that considerable progress has been made in lowering adolescent cigarette smoking, the sad, unacceptable fact remains that in many states about one in 10 adolescents smoked cigarettes in the past month,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “The report also shows that we must collectively redouble our efforts to better educate adolescents about the risks of tobacco, and continue to work with every state and community to promote effective tobacco-use-prevention and -recovery programs.”

The no-smoking message is getting out, though, to an extent. A report out last year found that kids are smoking more pot—perhaps in lieu of cigarettes—because of longstanding anti-smoking campaigns, although pot and other drugs have plenty of their own drawbacks.

But perhaps that anti-smoking message needs to be expanded. Possibly because they don’t realize it also carries serious health risks, an estimated 18.5 percent of 12th graders said they had used a hookah in the previous year, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More needs to be done to decrease the number of teens who smoke flavored tobacco from hookahs, the CDC said. While hookah smoke contains many of the same toxins as cigarettes, its flavors and prices may draw in young people and make it seem more innocuous than cigarettes.

The CDC reiterated that the single most powerful intervention in reducing youth smoking is raising the price of tobacco. Because hookahs are a type of pipe, and shisha, the flavored tobacco smoked in hookahs, is a variety of pipe tobacco, the item carries a $2.83 per pound federal tax rate—about $22 per pound less than the federal tax on cigarette tobacco.

The researchers called for raising the price of shisha, removing its sweet flavorings, and labeling hookah tobacco products to warn smokers about health dangers. Hookah bars should no longer be exempt from smoke-free laws, the researchers said.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.