Good news. According to new figure from the Centers for Disease Control, the smoking rate for teens has dropped to 15.7 percent, the lowest in 22 years that the National Youth Risk Surveys have been tracking the smoking rate.
The high point (or low point depending upon your perspective) of teen smoking rates was in 1997 at an astounding 36.4 percent. In 1998, the rate began dropping, in one year to 34.8 percent. Why? One big reason. The much-maligned Master Settlement Agreement.
I’m the first guy to say the MSA didn’t do nearly as much as it should’ve, nor as much as we all thought it was going to do when it was announced. The biggest problem is not nearly enough money was earmarked for tobacco education, but one of the good things that came out of that agreement was that it killed Joe Camel.
Joe Camel and other cartoon characters promoting tobacco products were banned by the 1998 MSA. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, but check this out — teen smoking rates by year: 2001, 28.5 percent; 2003, 21.9 percent; 2005, 23 percent (about the time tobacco education funds started getting cut); 2007, 20.0 percent; 2009, 19.5 percent; 2011, 18.1 percent; 2013, 15.7.
A steady decline, with one blip in 2005, since Joe Camel was killed off. Now, the teen smoking rate is less than half it was 22 years ago. This is how we’re really going to win, not with regulations, but with education. Smoking is no longer seen as being cool and hip by a lot of teens today — at least 84.3 percent, and that has been through education.
One concern I do have is that perhaps one of the reasons the teen smoking rate has dropped so dramatically is because more kids today are using e-cigs. No data to back that up … but a bad feeling I have. While e-cigs are not as bad as cigarettes, nicotine is nicotine, addictive as crap, no matter what the delivery system.