Thursday, October 16, 2014

Federal Survey Data on Tobacco: It’s Not About The Children

I have documented for several years a nonstop decline in smoking rates among American teens (here, here, here, and here  )

Rates of smoking and use of other tobacco products among teens are so low that they no longer provide a valid basis for the draconian anti-tobacco policy prescriptions favored by the FDA and CDC. 

A fresh National Survey on Drug Use and Health summary (here) confirms low tobacco use by teens.  The chart at left shows that the smoking rate continued its free-fall through 2013.  Cigar use also declined over the past decade to 2.3% in 2013, while smokeless tobacco use was flat at about 2% over the entire period.

These figures aren’t underestimates.  As I discussed previously (here), NSDUH estimates tend to be robust because they include any product use over the prior 30 days. 


Other NSDUH data (in the second chart) point to the population that should be targeted by the FDA and CDC – those aged 18-34.  The sharp jump in smoking prevalence from 11% at ages 16-17, to 27% at ages 18-20, underscores that the latter group is where the real problem starts. 

Anti-tobacco forces know that problematic behaviors in adults don’t stimulate support for prohibitionist policies, so they continue to inaccurately suggest the existence of a youth-tobacco crisis.  

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