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Progress Against Teen Smoking Has Slowed, CDC Reports

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Major declines in adolescent smoking achieved in the late 1990s and early 2000s slowed to a crawl between 2003 and 2009, the U.S. Centers on Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in its biennial report on high-school smoking.

The prevalence rate for youth ever trying smoking “did not change from 1991 (70.1 percent) to 1999 (70.4 percent), declined to 58.4 percent in 2003, and then declined more gradually, to 46.3 percent in 2009,” the CDC reported. “For current cigarette use, the prevalence increased from 27.5 percent in 1991 to 36.4 percent in 1997, declined to 21.9 percent in 2003, and then declined more gradually, to 19.5 percent in 2009. For current frequent cigarette use, the prevalence increased from 12.7 percent in 1991 to 16.8 percent in 1999, declined to 9.7 percent in 2003, and then declined more gradually, to 7.3 percent in 2009.”

The findings were generally consistent with those in the annual Monitoring the Future survey of high-school students, the CDC noted. Based on these studies, the CDC said that the U.S. would not meet the target of reducing high-school smoking to 16 percent or less as hoped for in the Healthy People 2010 report.

Terry Pechacek, associate director for science in the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health, told the New York Times that the findings show that “the antismoking countermessage has been lost.”

“People are getting the image that it's cool to use nicotine as a drug,” said Pechacek. “We need to bring back our voice, our antismoking mass-media campaign.”

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