Number of Teens Taking Up Smoking Stubbornly High

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increase-smoking-teensTobacco products are a range of commercially available items that have nicotine-containing tobacco as their sole or primary ingredient. In addition to cigarettes, common examples of these products include cigars, pipe tobacco and forms of smokeless tobacco such as chewing tobacco and snuff. Each year, a federally sponsored project called the National Survey on Drug Use and Health compiles information related to tobacco use in all American teenagers and adults. This information includes the number of people who initiate tobacco intake in any given 12-month time period.

The Basics

The nicotine content in tobacco products makes these products primary sources of substance abuse and addiction for millions of Americans every year. Like basically all other abused and addictive substances, nicotine makes much of its impact by altering basic brain chemistry and setting up the conditions required for the onset of physical dependence. Because of the need to use nicotine relatively frequently in order to maintain the drug’s pleasurable effects, cigarette users and other tobacco users often develop addictions relatively quickly, in addition to developing particularly entrenched forms of addiction. While nicotine has its own potential to produce severe harms, most of the personal and social toll of tobacco use comes from chronic exposure to other dangerous chemicals found in the tobacco plant and products made from that plant. These chemicals can damage organs throughout the body and lead to illnesses that range in severity from relatively minor to life threatening or inevitably fatal.

How Many New Cigarette Smokers?

Smoking has been decreasing in popularity in the U.S. for a number of years. Despite this fact, figures compiled through the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that roughly 2.3 million American teenagers and adults used cigarettes for the first time in 2012 (the last year with fully analyzed results). Spread out over the entire year, this equates to approximately 6,400 new cigarette users every single day. Slightly more than 51 percent of new smokers were 18 or younger; most of the remainder fell in a broad range that included everyone from the tail end of adolescence through the heart of middle age. Surprisingly, despite the overall decline in smoking rates, the number of teenagers taking up smoking in 2012 was only marginally lower than the number of teenagers who took up smoking a decade previously. Compared to the number of new smokers above the age of 18 in 2002 (623,000), the number of new smokers above this age in 2012 was up sharply to 1.1 million.

How Many New Daily Cigarette Smokers?

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health records separate figures for the number of people who begin smoking on a daily basis in any given year. This is a critically important category, since initiation of daily smoking is one of the most reliable indicators of nicotine addiction. In 2012, 778,000 Americans initiated a daily smoking habit; this figure represents a fairly steep drop from the 2011 total of 878,000 new daily smokers. The average age of a new daily cigarette user was 19 years, nine months. Statistically speaking, teenage girls and women initiate daily cigarette use about two years later in life than teenage boys and men.

How Many New Cigar and Smokeless Tobacco Users?

Approximately 2.7 million U.S. teenagers and adults used cigars for the first time at some point during 2012. The total number of new cigar users was down slightly from 2011. However, in a continuation of a longstanding trend, new cigar users actually outnumbered new cigarette users by a considerable amount. The average new cigar smoker initiated use at the age of 20 years, five months. Roughly 997,000 adults and teenagers used some form of smokeless tobacco for the first time in 2012. This figure represents a substantial drop over the 2011 total of nearly 1.3 million new users. The average new smokeless tobacco user initiated intake at the age of 18 years, eight months.


Most of the adults who currently smoke started their cigarette use while still in adolescence. This fact is reflective of the heightened susceptibility to nicotine addiction found in teenagers. Most adult smokers express a wish to break their nicotine habits and maintain a lifestyle that entirely excludes cigarette use. This fact holds true even for those individuals dealing with the effects of mental illness, a segment of the population known for its unusually high rates of cigarette use and nicotine addiction. Successful smoking cessation among adults has a significant impact on the decline in cigarette use currently holding sway across the U.S.