CDC: High School Smoking Rate Drops

Smoking among high school students has dropped to its lowest level in more than a decade as fewer students say they've tried cigarettes, the government said Thursday.

Nearly 22 percent of U.S. high school students said they were smokers in 2003, down from more than 36 percent in 1997. The lowest previous smoking rate was in 1999, when 27.5 percent of students smoked.

In addition, a little more than 58 percent of students in 2003 said they tried smoking. More than 70 percent of students in 1999 said they tried it, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (search) said.

The CDC said a 90 percent hike in cigarette prices between 1997 and 2003 helped deter students from smoking. School-based and media campaigns against smoking also contributed to the decline, the CDC said.

But the government noted that other studies recently have warned the rate of decline in student smoking may be slowing.

The CDC blamed that on several factors, including more depictions of smoking in films and a near-doubling of tobacco advertising expenditures from cigarette makers ($5.7 billion in 1997 to $11.2 billion in 2001). Also, states are using less money from the major tobacco settlement between states and tobacco companies (search) for tobacco prevention.

The government said that health officials will have to create effective anti-tobacco campaigns (search), including those that promote smoke-free homes and discourage family members or friends from giving cigarettes to youngsters.

The report also called for more non-smoking "role models," and to reduce depictions of tobacco on films and TV.