US teen smoking rates appear to be falling
ATLANTA (Reuters Health) - The number of US high school students taking up smoking may have leveled out or even declined during the late 1990's, a new report suggests.
The trend is encouraging, say health experts, because it follows on the heels of years of increased rates of smoking among teens.
But they also note that while the number of high school boys who smoke appears to be falling, from 37.7% in 1997 to 34.7% in 1999, the rate of girls who smoke has remained stable-holding at 34.7% in 1997 and 34.9% in 1999.
Smoking rates are also down among black students, falling from 22.7% in 1997 to 19.7% in 1999. ``'Among black male students the leveling or possible decline in smoking was particularly notable,'' according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which issued the report on Thursday. Smoking rates in black male high school students fell from 28.2% in 1997 to 21.8% in 1999.
The report, based on the CDC's analysis of the national Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), is published in the August 25th issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The authors point out that despite a leveling or possible decline in current smoking among youth overall, this trend may have been limited to select groups such as males, blacks, and 9th-grade students. In addition, those who smoked frequently, that is, more than 20 cigarettes in the last 30 days, showed no pattern of leveling or declining. Overall smoking among high school students increased from 27.5% in 1991 to 36.4% in 1997, with an apparent fall to 34.8% in 1999.
``We are encouraged that we see an overall trend that smoking levels are potentially beginning to decline, but we are not seeing this decline uniformly across all ages, genders, race/ethnicity groups and so we are still cautious,'' Dr. Terry F. Pechacek, associate director for science with the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion of the CDC, told Reuters Health.
``We are not seeing a decline in the older students or students that are smoking most frequently,'' said Pechacek. ``It is a warning sign to us that once youth reach a stage where they are using (tobacco) frequently, in a more adult pattern, they have a difficult time stopping smoking--we need to reach them early and bring effective programs to them early.''
``Smoking rates among teens could be cut in half within the decade...if the nation would fully implement anti-smoking approaches proven to be effective,'' according to a statement issued by the CDC.