ANN ARBOR---The proportion of teens who are current cigarette smokers continued to decline gradually in 1999, according to the 25th national survey of the Monitoring the Future Study, conducted at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR) under grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Cigarette smoking peaked in 1996 among eighth- and 10th-graders nationwide, and in 1997 among 12th-graders. Since those peak years, there has been a gradual decline in smoking rates, which continued in 1999.
Among eighth-graders, most of whom are 13 or 14 years old, 17.5 percent said they had smoked one or more cigarettes in the past 30 days (defined as "current smoking"), down by one-sixth from a peak of 21 percent in 1996. Among 10th-graders, most of whom are 15 or 16 years old, 25.7 percent reported smoking in the past 30 days, down nearly one-sixth from the peak of 30.4 percent in 1996. Among 12th-graders, most of whom are 17 or 18 years old, the decline has been very modest---from 36.5 percent in the peak year of 1997 to 34.6 percent in 1999. This represents only about a 5 percent drop in their smoking rate from their recent peak. Because these declines are gradual, in 1999 only the one-year decline among eighth-graders reached statistical significance. The one-year decline was just short of significance among 10th-graders, but the three-year declines in both eighth- and 10th-grades are highly significant.
"Despite these recent improvements, over one-third of today's young people are active smokers by the time they leave high school. In fact, more than one in every six is an active smoker as early as eighth-grade," observes Lloyd D. Johnston, the study's principal investigator and a research scientist at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR). "These rates are still well above smoking rates in the early 90s, when teen smoking began to increase substantially."