Smoking Declines Slacken in High Schools as U.S. Misses Goal

Smoking among high school students isn’t declining as fast as it did a decade ago, causing the U.S. to miss its goal for reducing the rate of cigarette use among those teenagers, a study found.

Smoking fell to about 20 percent of students in 2009 from 22 percent in 2003, according to a study released today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The decline was slower than the drop from 36 percent in 1997. The U.S. Health Department had aimed for current smokers to make up 16 percent or less of students by this year.

Teen smoking increased during most of the 1990s, fueled by advertising and price discounts on popular teen brands, according to the CDC. Smoking rates declined in the late 1990s and early 2000s because of restrictions on promotions, anti-smoking programs led by “The Truth” ad campaign, and higher cigarette taxes, and such efforts should be increased, according to the authors of today’s report.

“It’s discouraging to see that current smoking did not continue to decline more rapidly,” said Thomas Frieden, head of the Atlanta-based CDC, in an e-mailed statement. “Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in this country, and 9 out of 10 adults started smoking in their teens or earlier.

“Much more needs to be done,” Frieden said.

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