Preventing and Reducing Teen Tobacco Use


More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined.[1] Although tobacco use by adolescents has declined substantially in the last forty years, in 2013, almost one in 10 high school seniors were daily smokers, and almost one in six had smoked at least once in the previous month.[2] A 2012 Surgeon General report notes that marketing and promotion of tobacco products exceed $1 million an hour - over $27 million a day - in the United States alone.

Tobacco use remains the number one cause of preventable deaths in the United States. It is critical that efforts to prevent and reduce teen smoking continue. For every percentage-point reduction in the youth smoking rate, it is estimated that 173,000 current high school students will not start smoking and 62,200 will not die a tobacco-related death.[3] The Surgeon General estimates that, if all the evidence-based youth anti-tobacco strategies were implemented, smoking among high school students would decline by more than 50 percent by 2020.[4]

Strategies and Approaches to Reducing Adolescent Tobacco Use


The Surgeon General report Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults summarizes the causes, the solutions, and the latest findings about the epidemic of tobacco use among these groups.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that primary care clinicians provide interventions, including education or brief counseling, to prevent initiation of tobacco use among school-aged children and adolescents (ages 10-17).

The Community Preventive Services Task Force offers guidance and recommendations on evidence-based approaches to prevent and reduce tobacco use by adolescents. These include:

  • Reducing the initiation of tobacco use (such as by increasing the price of tobacco products)
  • Increasing tobacco use cessation for smokers and users of other tobacco products (through mass media campaigns and other interventions)
  • Restricting minors’ access to tobacco products (through community mobilization and enforcement)
  • Reducing exposure to second hand smoke (primarily through smoking bans)

Footnotes »


Mokdad, A.H., Marks, J.S., Stroup, D.F., Gerberding, J.L. Actual Causes of Death in the United States. JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association 2004; 201(10): 1238-45.


Johnston, L. D., O'Malley, P. M., Miech, R. A., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2014). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use: 1975-2013: Overview of key findings on adolescent drug use. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan. Retrieved December 26, 2014, from http://www.monitoringthefuture.org//pubs/monographs/mtf-overview2013.pdf


Campaign from Tobacco-Free Drugs. (2013). Benefits and savings from each one percentage point decline in the USA smoking rates. Washington, DC. Retrieved December 26, 2014, from http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/research/factsheets/pdf/0235.pdf


U.S. Department of Health and Human Service. (2012).Preventing tobacco use among youth and young adults: A report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD. Retrieved December 26, 2014, from http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/reports/preventing-youth-tobacco-use/

Last updated: January 16, 2015