ROCKVILLE, MdAlthough cigarette smoking has remained relatively
stable among youths age 12 to 17 since 1988, the percentage of young
adults who smoke rose sharply between 1994 and 1998. According to a
new government survey, 41.6% of Americans age 18 to 25 were cigarette
smokers last year, up from 34.6% in 1994 and 40.6% in 1997.
Overall, 60 million Americans (27.7%) in 1998 were current cigarette
users, defined as having smoked cigarettes at least once in the 30
days prior to their interview. The 1998 number represents a
statistically significant decline from 29.6% in 1997.
These statistics were derived from the 1998 National Household Survey
on Drug Abuse, an annual study conducted by the Substance Abuse and
Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Since 1971, the
annual survey has served as the primary source of prevalence and
incidence estimates for illicit drug, alcohol, and tobacco use. The
1998 report is based on interviews with 25,500 individuals.
An estimated 18.2%, or 4.1 million, of the nations 12 to 17
year olds were cigarette smokers last year. This figure was down from
19.9% in 1997, but the change was not statistically significant.
The study also found that youths age 12 to 17 who smoked cigarettes
were 11.4 times more likely than nonsmokers to use illicit drugs and
16 times more likely to drink heavily (five or more drinks on the
same occasion on five or more days in the month before being
interviewed) (see Figure ). Among
all current smokers, 14% reported heavy alcohol use, 13.6% said they
used marijuana/hashish, and 16.1% reported using other illicit drugs.
Cigar smoking among Americans age 12 and older rose to 6.9% last year
from 5.9% in 1997, a statistically significant increase. Male cigar
smokers far outnumbered female users, 11.9% vs 2.3%. Among the 12- to
17-year-old age group, 5.6% reported cigar use, a statistically
insignificant increase from the 5% who reported such use in 1997. An
estimated 3.1% of Americans were smokeless tobacco users in 1998
(5.9% of males and 0.5% of females), a rate that has remained steady
Among racial and ethnic groups, 29% of blacks, 28% of whites, 26% of
Hispanics, and 24% of other groups were current cigarette smokers
last year. Whites led in the use of smokeless tobacco (also called
spit tobacco) (3.7%), followed by blacks (2%) and Hispanics (0.8%).
More males than females were cigarette smokers in 1998, 29.7% vs
25.7%. However, among the youngest smokers (12 to 17), the gender
difference was narrower: 18.7% of boys smoke vs 17.7% of girls. The
rate for girls was a significant decline from the 1997 estimate of 20.7%.
Regionally, cigarette smokers accounted for 32% of the population in
the North Central United States, 27.9% in the Northeast, and 25.5% in
Cigarette Prices Up
In a move that could lead to some reductions in the number of
smokers, the nations leading cigarette manufacturers have
raised the wholesale price of cigarettes by 18 cents a pack, in
anticipation of increases in the excise tax on cigarettes and of
costs related to the $206 billion settlement with the states over
tobacco-related health care costs.