Federal Agency: 1 in 8 in Middle School Use Tobacco
ATLANTA (Reuters) - One in eight middle school students uses tobacco in some form, including unfiltered Asian cigarettes that can be more hazardous than domestic brands, U.S. health officials said on Thursday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the first nationally representative survey of students in grades six through eight found that 12.8 percent of them use tobacco.
Researchers said 9.2 percent of these 11-to-13-year-olds had smoked cigarettes and 6.1 percent had smoked cigars during the past month.
``As a parent, I'm very disturbed to see that in that young group, virtually 10 percent are already cigarette smokers,'' said Michael Eriksen, director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health.
The survey, conducted in September and October, found that 2.4 percent of middle school students were smoking bidis, which are hand-rolled cigarettes from India, and 1.9 percent were smoking kreteks, or clove cigarettes from Indonesia.
More than 2 percent of middle school students used smokeless tobacco.
``If current patterns continue, 5 million children under the age of 18 alive today in the United States will die prematurely as a result of addiction to cigarette smoking,'' Eriksen said.
``Increases in these other types of tobacco products will make that situation worse,'' he said.
Rates Similar Across Groups
While previous surveys have shown that black teen-agers are less likely to smoke than whites or Hispanics, the survey of middle school students found little variation among races or ethnic groups.
Smoking rates were 8.8 percent among white middle school students, 9 percent among blacks and 11 percent among Hispanics. Black middle school students were almost twice as likely to smoke cigars as white students.
``We were very disappointed not to find the racial difference in smoking rates in the middle school that we have historically observed in high school students,'' Eriksen said.
The survey of 15,058 young people in 131 schools across the country also included high school students. It found that 34.8 percent of students in grades nine through 12 used some form of tobacco.
More than one-fourth of high school students were cigarette smokers. Smoking rates were 28.7 percent among male students and 28.2 percent among females.
More than 15 percent of high school students smoked cigars, 6.6 percent used smokeless tobacco, 5.8 percent smoked kreteks and 5 percent smoked bidis.
Eriksen said kreteks and bidis were perceived by young people as safer than other tobacco products because are cheaper than cigarettes and carry no warnings. But he said ``they are even more hazardous than cigarettes because they are not filtered.''