Recent reports from the CDC indicate more than 80% of adult smokers began smoking before 18 years of age, and adolescent smokeless tobacco users are more likely than nonusers to become adult cigarette smokers. Despite the decline in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, youth smokeless tobacco use among high school students has been increasing in recent years.
Every day in the United States, nearly 3,500 young people between 12 and 17 years of age smoke their first cigarette, and an estimated 850 youth become daily cigarette smokers. In 2009, the CDC reported that 17.2% of all high school students were current cigarette smokers, with nearly 20% of all male high school students reporting they smoked cigarettes. This isn’t just a problem in our high schools, as over 5% of all middle school students reported they were current cigarette smokers.
Smokeless tobacco is a growing concern among the youth of our nation. In 2009, the CDC reported that nearly 7% of all high school students reported use of smokeless tobacco. Nearly 12% of all high school males reported regular use of smokeless tobacco. In the same report, almost 3% of the nation’s middle school students reported regularly using smokeless tobacco.
Mississippi, unfortunately, is leading the way in two key areas. The national average of high school students reporting ever trying cigarette smoking is 46.3%, where Mississippi has reported 53.7% of all high school students have ever tried cigarette smoking. More alarming is that 16.6% of all Mississippi high school students reported they smoked an entire cigarette for the first time before the age of 13 years, while the national average is 10.7%.
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