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Updated 7:00 AM December 14, 2009

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Smoking continues gradual decline among U.S. teens

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Teen marijuana use up, while some drugs decline>

Teen smoking reached its recent peak levels around 1996 and 1997, followed by a sharp decline for about six years and a continued more gradual decline ever since, according to the latest Monitoring the Future study of the nation's young people.

"Over the past two years we have seen the smoking rates among young people continue to decline only very gradually, at rates much slower than were occurring previously," says researcher Lloyd Johnston, principal investigator of the Monitoring the Future study. "The proportions of students seeing a great risk associated with being a smoker has leveled off in the past several years, as has the proportion of teens who say they disapprove of smoking."

Monitoring the Future has been conducting annual, nationwide surveys of U.S. teens in school for the past 35 years. The 2009 survey included a total of 46,097 students in the eighth, 10th and 12th grades in 389 secondary schools.

The research is conducted by a team of research professors at the Institute for Social Research, which in addition to Johnston includes Patrick O'Malley, Jerald Bachman and John Schulenberg. The National Institute on Drug Abuse supports this investigator-initiated study through a series of competitive research grants.

To illustrate the progress that has occurred, among eighth-graders (13- and 14-year-olds), the proportion saying that they smoked any cigarettes in the month prior to the survey has dropped by two-thirds (from 21 percent in 1996, the peak year, to 7 percent by 2009). Among 10th- graders, the decline over the same 13-year interval was more than one-half (down from 30 percent to 13 percent); among 12th-graders, whose smoking rate reached a recent peak in 1997, there has been a decline of almost one-half (down from 37 percent in 1997 to 20 percent by 2009). Daily smoking has declined by even larger proportions.

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