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Youth Smoking Declines – But Not Enough

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Smoking among high school students isn’t declining as fast as it did a decade ago, causing the U.S. to miss its goal for reducing the rate of cigarette use among those teenagers, a study found.

The new survey again demonstrates that we know how to dramatically reduce tobacco use. Smoking fell to about 20 percent of students in 2009 from 22 percent in 2003, according to a study released this week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The decline was slower than the drop from 36 percent in 1997. The U.S. Health Department had aimed for current smokers to make up 16 percent or less of students by this year.

Teen smoking increased during most of the 1990s, fueled by advertising and price discounts on popular teen brands, according to the CDC. Smoking rates declined in the late 1990s and early 2000s because of restrictions on promotions, antismoking programs led by “The Truth” ad campaign, and higher cigarette taxes, and such efforts should be increased, according to the authors of the CDC report.

Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in this country, and 9 out of 10 adults started smoking in their teens or earlier.

Despite the progress we have made, tobacco use still kills more than 400,000 Americans and costs $96 billion in health care bills each year. We cannot declare victory until we have eliminated the death and disease caused by tobacco. Much more needs to be done.

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