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Teen Cigarette Smoking Drops to Record Lows

December 14, 2011

Cigarette smoking among American youth has dropped to record lows, with just 11.7 percent of kids in grades 8, 10 and 12 reporting that they smoked in the past month.

The annual Monitoring the Future survey released today shows that since youth smoking rates peaked in the mid-1990s, they have dropped dramatically — by 71 percent among eighth graders, 61 percent among students in 10th grade and 49 percent among those in 12th grade.

Still, nearly one in five kids will graduate from high school as smokers. And the tobacco industry is trying to make sure that it hooks more of them.

The industry still spends about $10 billion a year to market cigarettes, it’s spending record sums to promote smokeless tobacco – and smokeless use among youth has soared. The new survey, while not showing a continued increase in smokeless use, nonetheless showed no significant decline. More than 14 percent of 12th grade boys said they currently use smokeless products.

And kids are clearly experimenting with small cigars, which the industry is marketing in kid-friendly flavors such as strawberry, watermelon, vanilla and chocolate. The survey showed that 23 percent of 12th graders — including 27 percent of boys — have smoked small cigars in the past year.

Luckily, people like The Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles see this for exactly what it is:

editorial Cartoon from The Washington Post