• Each day, nearly 4,000 kids in the United States try their first cigarette and an additional 1,000 kids under 18 years of age become new regular, daily smokers. That’s nearly 400,000 new underage daily smokers in this country each year.
  • The addiction rate for smoking is higher than the addiction rates for marijuana, alcohol, or cocaine; and symptoms of serious nicotine addiction often occur only weeks or even just days after youth “experimentation” with smoking first begins.
  • Nearly 90 percent of all adult smokers begin while in their teens, or earlier, and two-thirds become regular, daily smokers before they reach the age of 19.
  • 18.7 percent of high school students are current smokers by the time they leave high school.
  • 18.1 percent of all high school students (9-12 grades) are current smokers, including 16.1 percent of females and 19.9 percent of males. White high school students have the highest smoking rate (20.3 percent) compared to Hispanics (17.5 percent), and African-Americans (10.5 percent).
  • Roughly one-third of all youth smokers will eventually die prematurely from smoking-caused disease.
  • Smoking can also seriously harm kids while they are still young. Besides the immediate bad breath, irritated eyes and throat, and increased heartbeat and blood pressure, near-term harms from youth smoking include respiratory problems, reduced immune function, increased illness, tooth decay, gum
  • disease, and pre-cancerous gene mutations.
  • Smoking during youth is also associated with an increased likelihood of using illegal drugs.
  • The tobacco companies spend $10.5 billion each year to promote their deadly products – that’s nearly $29 million spent every day to market cigarettes, and much of that marketing directly reaches and influences kids.
  • Kids are more susceptible to cigarette advertising and marketing than adults.10  81.3 percent of youth smokers (12-17) prefer Marlboro, Camel, and Newport, three heavily advertised brands, while only 54.1 percent of smokers over age 26 prefer these brands.  For example, between 1989 and 1993, spending on the Joe Camel ad campaign jumped from $27 million to $43 million, which prompted a 50 percent increase in Camel’s share of the youth market but had no impact at all on its adult market share. Additionally, a survey released in March 2008 showed that kids were almost twice as likely as adults to recall tobacco advertising.
  • A Journal of the National Cancer Institute  study found that teens were more likely to be influenced to smoke by cigarette marketing than by peer pressure. Similarly, a Journal of the American Medical Association  study found that as much as a third of underage experimentation with smoking was attributable to tobacco company marketing efforts.


Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, June 12, 2012 / Meg Riordan

For more information on kids’ tobacco use and harms, see