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Cigarettes Smoked per Day Among High School Students in the U.S., 1991–2009

      Background

      Recent declines in current cigarette smoking among youth are encouraging, but less is known about the trends in the number of cigarettes smoked per day among youth.

      Purpose

      This study examined trends in the number of cigarettes smoked per day among U.S. high school students during 1991–2009.

      Methods

      Nationally representative data from the 1991–2009 national Youth Risk Behavior Surveys (YRBS) were analyzed in 2010. The YRBS is a biennial, school-based survey representative of 9th- through 12th-grade students in the U.S. Each survey year, students completed anonymous, self-administered questionnaires that included identically worded questions about cigarette use. The number of cigarettes smoked per day on smoking days was categorized as light smoking (<1–5 cigarettes per day); moderate smoking (6–10 cigarettes per day); and heavy smoking (≥11 cigarettes per day). Sample sizes ranged from 10,904 to 16,410. Overall response rates ranged from 60% to 71%.

      Results

      During 1991–2009, among current cigarette users overall, light smoking increased from 67.2% to 79.4% and heavy smoking decreased from 18.0% to 7.8%. These trends were found among female and male students overall and white students. Among Hispanic students, light smoking remained stable, but heavy smoking significantly increased from 3.1% in 1991 to 6.4% in 2009. The prevalence of light, moderate, and heavy smoking did not change during 1991–2009 among black students.

      Conclusions

      The finding that during 1991–2009 light smoking increased and heavy smoking decreased among current cigarette users is encouraging; however, even light smoking is detrimental to health and efforts to reduce all cigarette use should continue.
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