One in eight Americans ages 12 to 18 smoke regularly, a new study shows. Although almost none smoke at 12, one in four are lighting up by adulthood.
The national Centers for Disease Control reported Thursday that less than 1 percent of the 12-year-olds questioned in a survey said they had smoked in the preceding week, compared with 12 percent of the 15-year-olds and 25 percent of the 18-year-olds.Occasional smoking - at least once in the preceding month - was reported by 16 percent of the respondents. That ranged from 2 percent at age 12 to 31 percent at 18.
Overall, regular smoking was only slightly more common among young males than among young females - 12 percent to 11 percent. But by age 18, young men outsmoked young women 29 percent to 21 percent.
The report "demonstrates that we are still not succeeding well enough in helping our young people to avoid tobacco addiction and all the health hazards that go with smoking," Health and Human Services Secretary Louis W. Sullivan said in a statement.
The survey had 9,965 respondents nationwide, for an overall margin of error less than 1 percentage point. The findings, from a 1989 telephone-mail survey, were similar to those of a 1990 national survey of high school students.
In that high school survey, 13 percent said they smoked often - at least 25 of the preceding 30 days - and 32 percent said they had smoked at least once in that period.
The 1989 survey found regular smoking to be most common among white teenagers. Thirteen percent of whites from 12 to 18 had smoked in the preceding week, compared with 9 percent of Hispanic youths and 4 percent of black youths.
The CDC said regular smoking was noticeably higher among dropouts than among young people still in school or graduated.