Adolescents and teen smokers can be more susceptible to nicotine addiction and face unique developmental challenges in the initiation and cessation of cigarette smoking. They are an important group to target with regard to both prevention and cessation efforts.
During 2019-2020 we saw substantial declines in youth current tobacco use with an estimated 1.73 million fewer current users from 6.20 million to 4.47 million reported in the National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS).1 Specifically, we saw declines in: current use of any tobacco product, any combustible tobacco product, multiple tobacco products, e-cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco among middle and high school students.1
In 2021, because of COVID-19 protocols across the country, when the NYTS was conducted, the survey was administered online. The reporting of tobacco use might differ by survey completion setting and thus, the 2021 NYTS results described cannot be directly compared with previous NYTS survey results that were primarily conducted on school campuses. Based on the 2021 data, there are approximately 34.0% of high school students (5.22 million) and 11.3% of middle school students (1.34 million) that reported ever using a tobacco product with current use of a tobacco product being 13.4% for high school students (2.06 million) and 4.0% for middle school students (470,000).2
Even though progress is being made, there still are significant areas of improvement to decrease tobacco initiation and increase cessation amongst youth.
From 2011 to 2020, current cigarette smoking (defined as at least one cigarette in the past 30 days) decreased among middle and high school students.1,3,4 Data from the 2020 NYTS highlights that 4.6% of high school students smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days.1,3 This number is down by over 11% from 2011, suggesting that progress is being made in youth tobacco prevention.4 Among middle school students, 1.6% smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days which is a decrease from 4.3% in 2011.1,3,4
While these statistics show positive change, cigarette smoking continues to be the leading cause of preventable morbidity and mortality worldwide. In 2019 in the U.S., there are 34.1 million adult daily smokers.5 If current rates persist 5.6 million of today’s American youth, about 1 in every 13 Americans younger than 18, will die prematurely due to smoking-related illness.6 Every day, about 1600 youth under the age of 18 experiments with their first cigarette.7 In fact, over 99% of adults who are daily smokers tried their first cigarette before age 26.8 These statistics illustrate why smoking needs to be prioritized as a major public health concern among today's youth.
In 2021 it is estimated that more than 2 million U.S. middle school and high school e-cigarette users used e-cigarettes.9 Even those this number is alarming, this is a significant decrease from 2020 when 3.6 million youth were using e-cigarettes, and in 2019 when we note the height of this public health crisis where 5.4 million youth were using e-cigarettes.1