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Downward Trend in Teen Smoking Fizzles


ATLANTA -- The much ballyhooed decline in teenage smoking seems to have bottomed out, according the CDC.

ATLANTA, July 10 -- The much ballyhooed decline in teenage smoking seems to have bottomed out, according the CDC.

No significant decrease in teen smoking occurred from 2003 to 2005, according to a report from the Office on Smoking and Health that appeared in the July 7 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

Ratcheted-up spending on advertising by the tobacco industry, less funding for prevention programs, and more smoking portrayed in movies may be factors in the trend, the report said.

The report analyzed data from the CDC's Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The data were obtained from 1991 through 2005 from tens of thousands of high school students. The survey uses an anonymous, self-administered questionnaire administered to a nationally representative sample of U.S. teens in grades nine through 12.

The prevalence of "current" cigarette use-defined as having smoked at least once in the past 30 days-decreased from 36.4% in 1997 to 23% in 2003, the survey found.

In addition, the prevalence of "frequent" cigarette use-defined as having smoked on 20 or more days during the past 30-decreased from nearly 17% in 1999 to about 9% in 2003, the report said.

However, no decline in either type of smoking was detected between 2003 and 2005, the survey found. According to the editors of MMWR, factors that may have halted the downward trend include:

  • smaller annual increases in the retail price of cigarettes during 2003-2005
  • decreased funding for smoking prevention programs
  • substantial increases in tobacco industry spending on advertising and promotion, which rose from .7 billion in 1997 to .2 billion in 2003.

"Additionally, after decades of decline, smoking in movies, which has been linked to youth smoking, increased rapidly beginning in the early 1990s and by 2002 was at levels observed in 1950," the editors said.

"Evidence-based strategies that can increase the rate of decline in youth smoking include greater exposure to effective media campaigns, comprehensive school-based tobacco use prevention policies and programs in conjunction with supportive community activities, and higher retail prices for tobacco products," they said.

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