More than 1 in 5 high school students use tobacco, and 9 of 10 users smoke cigarettes, cigars, hookahs, pipes, or other combustible tobacco products, endangering their future health, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC’s 2013 National Youth Tobacco Survey reports that 22.9% of high school students and 6.5% of middle school students said they used a tobacco product within the previous 30 days; 46% of high school students and 17.7% of middle school students reported using a tobacco product at least once. Among high school students, 12.6% said they use 2 or more tobacco products, putting them at higher risk of developing nicotine dependence and smoking as adults.
Cigarettes were the tobacco product most often used by white (14%) and Hispanic (13.4%) high school students, closely followed by cigars (cigars, cigarillos, or little cigars) at 11.4% and 12.1%, respectively. Black high school and middle school students showed a significant preference for cigars over cigarettes (14.7% to 9% for high school students; 4.5% to 1.7% for middle schoolers).
Because most tobacco-related disease and death in the United States results from smoking, combustible tobacco use by young persons is especially worrisome. The 50th Annual Surgeon General’s Report, issued in January 2014, predicted that 5.6 million young people now aged 17 years or younger could die prematurely from cigarette-related illness if youth smoking rates don’t fall quickly. Smokeless tobacco use carries its own risks, specifically nicotine addiction and cancer.
The CDC survey found that 4.5% of high school students and 1.1% of middle school students had used electronic cigarettes within the previous 30 days. Although the public health impact of e-cigarettes is unclear, any nicotine use—combustible, smokeless, or electronic— by young persons is considered unsafe because nicotine has been found to adversely affect adolescent brain development.
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