Atlanta Smoking among U.S. high school students has dropped to its lowest level in a decade, the government said Thursday, crediting steep cigarette taxes and school programs that discourage youngsters from taking up the habit.
Just 28.5 percent of high-schoolers in a nationwide survey last year reported they had smoked a cigarette in the previous month down from 36.4 percent five years ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The rate is the lowest since 1991, when 27.5 percent of high school students said they smoked. The figure had climbed for most of the 1990s before reversing in 1999.
"This is terrific news," said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "This is dramatic evidence that the combination of tax increases and prevention programs are the equivalent of a vaccine."
The average retail price of cigarettes jumped 70 percent from December 1997 to May 2001, and CDC analysts said studies by health economists show that high cost deters many youngsters from smoking.
Many states are pushing for even higher taxes on cigarettes, particularly as they look for ways to raise money in a tough economy. State taxes range from 2 1/2 cents a pack in Virginia to $1.50 in New York.
The CDC said high-schoolers also appeared to be getting the anti-smoking message pushed by national media campaigns, and school-based anti-tobacco programs also appear to be sinking in.