ATLANTA — Despite efforts to keep tobacco products out of the hands of young consumers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that almost 23 percent of high-school students currently use a tobacco product.
New CDC data also shows more than 90 percent of those using a tobacco product are using combustible tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, hookahs and pipes. These findings were reported in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) on Nov. 13.
"Nine out of 10 smokers tried their first cigarette by age 18," said Tim McAfee, director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health. "We must do more to prevent our youth from using tobacco products, or we will see millions of them suffer and die prematurely as adults. Fully implementing proven tobacco control programs would help keep our youth from falling victim to tobacco."
The CDC's National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) additionally revealed that in 2013, 22.9 percent of high-school students and 6.5 percent of middle-school students reported using a tobacco product within the last 30 days. Nearly half (46 percent) of all high-school students and 17.7 percent of middle-school students said they had used a tobacco product at least once in their lifetime.
The survey also found that 12.6 percent of high-school students say they currently use two or more tobacco products.
Aside from combustible tobacco products, according to the CDC, 4.5 percent of all high-school students and 1.1 percent of middle-school students reported using electronic cigarettes within the last 30 days. While the impact of electronic cigarette use on public health remains uncertain, the 2014 Surgeon General's report found nicotine use can have adverse effects on adolescent brain development, the Atlanta-based agency reported.
Cigarettes were the most prevalent tobacco product used by White and Hispanic high-school students (14 percent and 13.4 percent, respectively), although cigars were close behind (11.4 percent and 12.1 percent, respectively).
Cigar use was more prevalent than cigarette use among other races/ethnicities. Cigar use among black high-school students was nearly 50 percent higher than cigarette use (14.7 percent vs. 9 percent), and more than twice as high among black middle-school students (4.5 percent vs. 1.7 percent), the CDC said.
"One effective strategy for reducing tobacco use among youth is raising the price," said Brian King, a senior scientific advisor with CDC's Office on Smoking and Health. "The Food and Drug Administration's new youth-focused media campaign, 'The Real Cost,' is also expected to lead to reductions in youth tobacco use."