Cigarette and smokeless tobacco use declines among adolescents

Jan. 12, 2021

Despite the increase in the use of e-cigarettes among adolescents, cigarette and smokeless tobacco prevalence declined more rapidly between 2012 and 2019 than in previous periods, according to a new study as reported in a news release from the University of Michigan.

The analysis by the University of Michigan and Georgetown University shows that past 30-day and daily use of both cigarettes and smokeless tobacco fell more rapidly since 2012, even as e-cigarette use began to increase – leading to historically low levels of both cigarette use and smokeless tobacco among teens in the United States.

“While the increases in e-cigarettes are indeed concerning and is something we need to address and reverse, the decreases in other tobacco products, in particular, cigarettes – the most concerning form of tobacco use – are accelerating,” said lead researcher Rafael Meza, PhD, Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Global Health at U-M’s School of Public Health.

“We are in a stage where cigarette smoking is going away. That’s something that we need to highlight and celebrate. This acceleration in the decrease occurs across grades, across races, across sexes. So it’s really occurring across the board and suggests that it’s a general pattern, that kids are just not into smoking anymore.”

Meza and colleagues wanted to understand long-term and recent trends in cigarette smoking and smokeless tobacco product use among adolescents by grade (8th, 10th, 12th), gender and race. Utilizing data from the nationally representative Monitoring the Future survey at U-M from 1991 to 2019, they examined the use prevalence of tobacco products in the last 30 days among key sociodemographic groups, identifying change of trend years for U.S. secondary and high schools.

They found that daily smoking prevalence among 12th grade boys increased 4.9 percent annually 1991 to 1998 but saw annual declines of 8 percent between 1998 and 2006 and 1.6 percent from 2006 to 2012. However, from 2012 to 2019, prevalence declined at a 17 percent annual rate. Overall, daily smoking prevalence among 12th graders fell to about 2 percent by 2019.

Similar results were observed for both boys and girls in all grades and for both African American and white teens. Smokeless tobacco use showed more variability through 2012, followed by consistent declines in the last five years. MTF data also shows similar rapid decreases in cigar and cigarillo use among adolescents in recent years, suggesting a general pattern across traditional tobacco products.

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