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Understanding Youth Tobacco Use

Aug 31, 2018

Fewer middle and high school students are using tobacco products than in recent years, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report. But there's still work to be done.

This national survey found that the number of US students in middle and high school who said they used tobacco products had decreased sharply in 2017, but 3.6 million were still using tobacco. That's down from 4.5 million in 2011.

Despite the drop, these numbers are still too high, according to the CDC. And 2.1 million of the 3.6 million young people who said they used tobacco products used electronic cigarettes. In fact, e-cigarettes have been the most common tobacco product used by middle and high schoolers since 2014, the CDC noted.

“Despite promising declines in tobacco use, far too many young people continue to use tobacco products, including e-cigarettes,” said CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield in a press release. “Comprehensive, sustained strategies can help prevent and reduce tobacco use and protect our nation’s youth from this preventable health risk.”

Increased prices on tobacco products, campaigns to warn of the dangers of tobacco and other strategies have been implemented over the past years to help reduce tobacco product use. Officials with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said they were taking steps to make sure no tobacco products, especially e-cigs, are being marketed or sold to children.


What can parents do to keep their children from using tobacco products? The American Cancer Society and CDC offered the following recommendations:

  • Start talking about the dangers of tobacco with your children when they are young, and continue doing so through their teen years. Many children start using tobacco products by age 11. If a relative or friend died from a tobacco-related illness, discuss that at an appropriate age.
  • Find out if your children's friends use tobacco products, including e-cigs. Teach your children some good ways to say no to tobacco.
  • Help your children understand that ads, movies, TV shows and other forms of media often falsely glamorize tobacco use.
  • If you smoke or use another tobacco product, kick the habit. Parents are a primary influence on their children's habits.

Speak with your child's health care provider if you believe your child is using tobacco products.

These survey findings were published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The report authors disclosed no outside funding sources or potential conflicts of interest.

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