Good news: teen smoking in the United States has dropped 64 percent recently. Bad news: marijuana use has doubled.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, which was published Oct. 16 and monitored teen smoking rates from 1997 to 2003, plenty of American teenagers still find the need to smoke. Thirty percent of white, black, and Hispanic teens, for instance, used cigarettes, cigars, or marijuana in 2013.

The study said the rate of cigarette-smoking teens decreased from 20.5 percent to a bit more than 7 percent. Marijuana use, on the other hand, jumped from 4 percent to 10 percent. Notably, among cigarette-smoking teenagers, marijuana use climbed from 51 percent to 62 percent.

From 2009 to 2013, marijuana use among black teens rose from 11 percent to almost 17 percent, while among Hispanic teens, it jumped from 8.5 percent to a bit more than 14 percent. By 2013, these two groups made up a significant share of the spike in marijuana users.

According to the report led by Italia Rolle, public health developments in the area of adolescent health resulting from lower cigarette and cigar use might be adversely affected by increased marijuana use that vary from one racial or ethnic group to another.

CDC Office on Smoking and Health director Dr. Tim McAfee believed that a higher acceptance of marijuana use drove its increase among teens. “There is the idea that marijuana is not something you need to worry about,” he warned, saying this is compounded by the little-known long-term effects of the substance due to its illegal nature.

“[T]he battle is far from over,” said Vince Willmore, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ vice-president for communications, citing the country’s “remarkable progress” in the reduction of smoking among the youth since 1997.

Wilmore said that the study is a reminder of strategies to make smoking rates further dip: raise tobacco taxes, fund prevention programs, implement smoke-free laws, and mobilize mass media campaigns, to name a few. The report, too, called for prevention policies and strategies that involve action from parents, schools and the community, and the media.

In another report published in the same issue of the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), research found that more people across the country are trying to quit smoking. Last year, the number of those who tried quitting increased substantially in 20 states and the Virgin Island; in 2013, it ranged from 56 percent in Kentucky to 76 percent in Puerto Rico and Guam.

The researchers called for further advancement of anti-smoking programs to achieve the Healthy People 2020 target of 80 percent or higher among smokers who attempted quitting in the past year.

Part of the government’s campaign to end tobacco use epidemic, as outlined in Healthy People 2020, is the Food and Drug Administration’s authority to regular tobacco product sales, advertising, and ingredient content, as well as an increase in tobacco excise tax and comprehensive smoke-free laws in 25 states and the District of Columbia (DC).

Photo: Ben Seidelman | Flickr

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