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Teen Smoking Hits A 22-Year Low, But Other Tobacco Uses Rise

A teenager finishes her cigarette in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood.
Darren McCollester
Getty Images
A teenager finishes her cigarette in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood.

Cigarette smoking among U.S. high school students has dropped to the lowest level in 22 years, federal health officials reported Thursday.

The percentage of students who reported smoking a cigarette at least one day in the last 30 days fell to 15.7 percent in 2013, according to the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a large federal survey that has been tracking youth smoking since 1991.

That's the lowest rate since the survey began, and it means the United States has met the federal government's objective of cutting teen cigarette use to 16 percent or less, officials said.

But officials say the fight against tobacco use remains far from over.

"We're encouraged to see high school students are making better choices in some areas, such as smoking," Dr, Thomas Frieden, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters during a briefing Thursday. "But we still face big challenges in reducing overall tobacco use."

Too many kids still smoke cigarettes, and there are other disturbing trends in tobacco use, Frieden said. More kids are using hookahs, for example, and more are using electronic cigarettes. In addition, too many still use smokeless tobacco, and the decline in cigar use among teens has slowed.

In addition to the decline in cigarette smoking, the survey also found the percentage of kids getting into physical fights has dropped, as has the percentage who are sexually active. But 41 percent reported texting or emailing while driving, and condom use among those who are sexually active has fallen.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rob Stein is a correspondent and senior editor on NPR's science desk.