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July 9, 2010

US Teen Smoking On The Rise Again?

The number of US teens shunning cigarettes is slowing down steadily, leaving health officials to call for stronger advertising counter-attacks to get high school students to stop or not try cigarettes, a new study showed Thursday.

The rate at which US high school students used cigarettes fell from 36 percent in 1997 to nearly 22 percent in 2003, but then the rate of decline slowed sharply, a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

Teen smoking fell by less than three percentage points between 2003 and 2009.

To fight the slower rate of decline, health authorities should launch "counter-advertising" campaigns against promotions by the tobacco industry and take steps to cut back tobacco advertising and product availability, the study said.

The study points out that the rise in teen smoking in the "˜90s was blamed in part on the "expanded promotional efforts by tobacco companies," which included showing smoking in movies, distributing items with tobacco company logos, and sponsoring youth-focused events like concerts and sporting events.

The study suggested increasing the number of tobacco-free environments and raising the cost of cigarettes by increasing taxes on them to get teens to kick the habit or never even begin.

"Although four of five (teens) don't smoke, it's discouraging to see that current smoking did not continue to decline more rapidly among youth," CDC director Thomas Frieden said in a statement.

"Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in this country, and nine out of ten adults started smoking in their teens or earlier," he said.

Frieden spent seven years as NYC's health commissioner guiding the health habits of New York citizens. He campaigned to ban smoking in bars and restaurants, which led to a sharp fall in the number of adults who smoke in the city, from 21.5 percent in 2002 to 6.9 percent in 2009.

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