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Cigarette smoking declined significantly among 8th, 10th, 12th graders in 2003 from 2002, as reported by the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future Study. In 2003, 10.2 percent, 16.7 percent, and 24.4 percent of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, respectively, reported smoking in the 30 days preceding the survey, compared to 10.7, 17.7, and 26.7 percent in 2002. These figures represent a 51.4 percent, 45 percent, and 33 percent decline in smoking for 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, respectively, since these levels peaked in 1996 and 1997. The younger age groups have shown the largest improvement over this time period. Researchers speculate that these declines resulted from an increase in the perceived risk and disapproval of smoking, an increase in cigarette price, and a decline in access to cigarettes.

The prevalence of smoking among teens increased substantially between 1991 and 1996. These increases occurred in virtually every socio-demographic group: both sexes, those planning on attending college and not, those living in all four regions of the country, those living in rural or urban areas, and among Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics. Since 1996, rates have consistently declined across all demographic groups. Although absolute rates of smoking have declined among adolescents, certain subgroups are less likely to smoke than others. Students who are not college-bound are more likely to smoke than college-bound high school students and Black adolescents are less likely to smoke cigarettes than White adolescents. The decline in rates of cigarette smoking since 1996 is likely to have important long-term health consequences for this generation of adolescents.

Graph: Cigarette Use Among High School Students[d]