THURSDAY, July 8 (HealthDay News) -- The decline in the number of U.S. high school students who smoke has slowed significantly, following dramatic drops starting in the late 1990s, according to a new federal report.
Twenty percent of high school students still smoke, making it impossible to reach the 2010 national goal of reducing cigarette use among teens to 16 percent or less, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
"The rate of change started slowing in 2003, and in some groups of students has totally stopped and is almost not declining at all," noted lead study author Terry F. Pechacek, associate director for science at the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health.
"The only group in which we are seeing a decline is in African-American females," he added.
Part of the problem, Pechacek said, is that "we have taken our eye off the issue. Sometimes, we get complacent with our success and move on to other things."
Also, states have significantly cut their budgets for tobacco education and cessation programs, Pechacek said. And the tobacco industry continues to aggressively target teenagers, he said, adding, "The industry has been left with the only voice out there with their $12 billion campaign."
Pechacek said there needs to be renewed emphasis on getting teens not to smoke. "We've got a new opportunity with the FDA legislation [which gives the agency oversight over the tobacco industry] and the ability it gives the community to do more about restricting advertising, promotion and availability of tobacco products," he said.
That effort needs to be combined with stronger anti-smoking programs, including smoke-free laws and increases in cigarette taxes, Pechacek said. "The ability to shut off the inflow of new smokers is critical," he said. "The fact that we have had a stall has dramatic implications for the future. Millions of more y
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