Youth tobacco surveillance—United States, 1998-1999

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MMWR. CDC Surveillance Summaries: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. CDC Surveillance Summaries 2000 October 13, 49 (10): 1-94

PROBLEM/CONDITION: Tobacco use is the single leading preventable cause of death in the United States, accounting for approximately, 430,000 deaths each year. The prevalence of cigarette smoking nationwide among high school students increased during the 1990s, peaking in 1996-1997, then began a gradual decline. Approximately 80% of tobacco users initiate use before the age of 18 years. If the trend in early initiation of cigarette smoking continues, approximately 5 million children aged <18 years who are living today will die prematurely as adults because they began to smoke cigarettes during adolescence. The economic liability associated with tobacco use ranges from $50 billion to $73 billion per year in medical expenses alone. Because of these health and economic consequences, CDC has recommended that states establish and maintain comprehensive tobacco control programs to reduce tobacco use among youth.

REPORTING PERIOD: February 1998 through December 1999.

DESCRIPTION OF THE SYSTEM: To assist states in developing and maintaining their state-based comprehensive tobacco prevention and control programs, CDC developed the Youth Tobacco Surveillance and Evaluation System, which includes international, national, and state school-based surveys of middle school and high school students. Two components of this system are discussed--the National Youth Tobacco Survey and the state Youth Tobacco Surveys. The national survey is representative of students in the 50 states and the District of Columbia; 15,061 students in 131 schools completed questionnaires in 1999. The state surveys were first conducted in 1998, when three states participated, and in 1999, when 13 states participated (13 states conducted middle school surveys and 10 states conducted high school surveys); state sample sizes ranged from 452 to 15,478 students. This report summarizes data from the 1999 national survey and the 1998 and 1999 state surveys.

RESULTS AND INTERPRETATION: Findings from the National Youth Tobacco Survey show current tobacco use ranges from 12.8% among middle school students to 34.8% among high school students. Cigarette smoking is the most prevalent form of tobacco used, followed by cigars and smokeless tobacco. Young people have strong cigarette brand preferences. Almost half of current smokers in both middle school and high school report that they usually smoke Marlboro cigarettes. Black students are more likely to smoke Newport cigarettes than any other brand. Half of current smokers in middle school and high school report that they want to completely stop smoking. Nearly one fourth of middle school and high school students who have never smoked cigarettes indicate that they are susceptible to initiating smoking in the next year. Environmental tobacco smoke exposure is very high among both middle school and high school students. During the week before the survey, approximately 9 out of 10 current smokers and half of never smokers were in the same room with someone who was smoking; 8 out of 10 current smokers and 3 out of 10 never smokers rode in a car with someone who was smoking. Six out of 10 current smokers and 3 out of 10 never smokers live in a home where someone else smokes cigarettes. Approximately 70% of middle school and 60% of high school students who currently smoke and are aged <18 years were not asked to show proof of age when they purchased cigarettes. Approximately three fourths of middle school and high school students have seen antismoking commercials; however, 90% report having seen actors smoking on television or in the movies. Approximately 2% of middle school and high school students who had never used tobacco would wear or use something with a tobacco company name or picture on it. This rate increases to approximately 20% for current tobacco users.

ACTIONS TAKEN: Youth Tobacco Survey data are used by health and education officials to improve national and state programs to prevent and control youth tobacco use. (ABSTRACT TRUN

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