Children and Teens

Cigarette smoking during childhood and adolescence produces significant health problems among young people, including an increase in the number and severity of respiratory illnesses, decreased physical fitness and potential effects on the rate of lung growth and maximum lung function.1 

Most importantly, this is when an addiction to smoking takes hold which often persists into and sometimes throughout adulthood.  If current tobacco use patterns persist, an estimated 6.4 million current child smokers will eventually die prematurely from a smoking-related disease.2,3

Key Facts About Tobacco Use Among Children and Teenagers

  • Among adults who smoke, 68 percent began smoking regularly at age 18 or younger, and 85 percent started when they were 21 or younger.4 The average age of daily smoking initiation for new smokers in 2008 was 20.1 years among those 12-49 years old.5
  • Every day, almost 3,900 children under 18 years of age try their first cigarette, and more than 950 of them will become new, regular daily smokers.6 Half of them will ultimately die from their habit.7
  • People who begin smoking at an early age are more likely to develop a severe addiction to nicotine than those who start at a later age. Of adolescents who have smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime, most of them report that they would like to quit, but are not able to do so.8

Prevalence of Tobacco Use Among Children and Teenagers

  • In 2007, 20 percent of high school students reported smoking in the last 30 days, down 45 percent from 36.4 percent in 1997 when rates peaked after increasing throughout the first half of the 1990s.9
  • Among high school students in 2007, the most prevalent forms of tobacco used were cigarettes (20 percent), cigars (13.6 percent), and smokeless tobacco (includes chewing tobacco and snuff; 7.9 percent).10   
  • The decline in smoking among high school girls has slowed recently.  Between 1999 and 2003, cigarette smoking prevalence among high school girls decreased by 37 percent. However, between 2003 and 2007, there was only a 15 percent decrease in prevalence of cigarette use.11 
  • In 2004, 11.7 percent of middle school students reported using any tobacco product; 8.4 percent used cigarettes. In 2004, 5.3 percent of middle school students were current cigar users, a decline of 30 percent since 1997.12
  • Since 1990 teenagers and young adults have had the highest rates of maternal smoking during pregnancy.  In 2005, 16.6 percent of female teens aged 15-19 and 18.6 percent of women aged 20-24 smoked during pregnancy.13
  • In 2007, 49.7 percent of current smokers in high school had tried to quit smoking cigarettes.14 In 2002, 55.4 percent of middle school students who smoked seriously tried to quit.15

Additional Facts About Tobacco Use Among Children and Teenagers

  • The 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) prohibited tobacco companies from advertising their products in ways that target youth. However, this has not accomplished its intended goal of curtailing tobacco exposure in children.16 Since the MSA, the average youth in the U.S. has been exposed to 559 tobacco ads.17 The impact of the MSA has been weakened as Big Tobacco switched the target of their marketing resources to young adults, seen as a primary role model by older teens.18 
  • Exposure to pro-tobacco marketing and media more than doubles the chances (2.2 times) of children and adolescents starting tobacco use.19
  • One study found that teens exposed to the greatest amount of smoking in movies were 2.6 times more likely to start smoking themselves compared with teens who watched the least amount of smoking in movies.20

The American Lung Association has more information available on quitting smoking and our programs to help you do so, our advocacy efforts to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, and tobacco use trends on our website at www.lung.org, or through the Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872).

Sources


1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Preventing Tobacco Use Among Young People: A Report of the Surgeon General. 1994.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking-Attributable Mortality, Morbidity and Economic Cost (SAMMEC) software. Accessed on October 27, 2009.
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Office on Smoking and Health. Sustaining State Programs for Tobacco Control: State Data Highlights, 2006. Accessed on October 27, 2009.
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. National Health Interview Survey, 2008. Analysis by the American Lung Association, Research and Program Services Division using SPSS software.
5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2008). Results from the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Office of Applied Studies. NSDUH Series H-36, DHHS Publication No. SMA 09-4434). Accessed on March 13, 2009.
6. Ibid.
7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Office on Smoking and Health. Sustaining State Programs for Tobacco Control: State Data Highlights, 2006Accessed on June 9, 2008.
8. American Legacy Foundation. 2000. National Youth Tobacco Survey. 2001.
9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2007. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. June 6, 2008; 57(SS-04).
10. Ibid.
11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2007. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. June 6, 2008; 57(SS-04).
12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Department of Health and Human Services. Women and Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2001.
13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. National Vital Statistics Reports. Births: Final Data for 2005. December 5, 2007; (56)5.
14. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance – United States, 2007. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. June 6, 2008; 57(SS-04).
15. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth Tobacco Surveillance – United States, 2002. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. May 2006; 55(SS03).
16. King C & Siegel M. The Master Settlement Agreement with the Tobacco Industry and Cigarette Advertising in Magazines. New England Journal of Medicine. 2001; 345:504-511.
17. Connolly GN. Testimony before the Senate HELP Committee, February 27, 2007.
18. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Office on Smoking and Health.  National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS). 2006 NYTS Data and Documentation. April 18, 2008. Accessed on August 21, 2008.
19. Wellman RJ, Sugarman DB, DiFranza JR, & Winickoff JP. The Extent to Which Tobacco Marketing and Tobacco Use in Films Contribute to Children's Use of Tobacco: A Meta-Analysis. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine December. 2006; 160(12):1202.
20. Sargent JD et al. Exposure to Movie Smoking: Its Relations to Smoking Initiation Among US Adolescents. Pediatrics. November 5, 2005; 116(5):1183-1191. 

February 2010