Massachusetts High School Students Report A Decline In Tobacco Use- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Family & Community

For Immediate Release
Monday, November 22, 1999
Contact:Darrell S. Pressley

Massachusetts High School Students Report A Decline In Tobacco Use

Malden - A survey of 4,415 Massachusetts high school students conducted in the spring of 1999 and released today by the Massachusetts Department of Education shows declines since 1995 in all forms of tobacco use among adolescents. Most of this decrease has occurred within the past two years.

Rates of recent (past month) cigarette smoking among high school students declined from a high of 35.7% in 1995 to 30.3% in 1999, a decrease that falls just within the survey's margin of error. In the same time period, adolescents' use of smokeless tobacco (chewing tobacco or snuff) fell from 8.4% to 4.9%, a statistically significant drop. Slight decreases since 1995 were also observed in any lifetime experimentation with smoking (71.5% to 67.4%), daily smoking (14.6% to 12.6%), and smoking cigarettes on school property (18.9% to 15.6%).

Massachusetts Commissioner of Education David P. Driscoll said, "I am somewhat encouraged by the results. We have learned a great deal, but we still have a long way to go."

In rates of recent smoking by high school youth, the most notable declines since 1995 have occurred among ninth-grade students (a 7.2% drop) and the least among high school seniors (a 2.2% drop). Decreases in smoking were similar for male and female students.

Among white students, who have consistently reported higher rates of cigarette smoking than youth of other ethnic groups, the decline in past-month smoking was sharp and statistically significant, from 39.9% in 1995 to 32.9% in 1999. Rates of recent cigarette use among African-American students (20.5%), Hispanic students (23.0%), and Asian-Americans (23.3%) are significantly lower than those of white youth and have not changed substantially since 1995.

Overall, in 1999, one in eight Massachusetts high school students reported that they smoke cigarettes every day; three in ten reported smoking cigarettes at least once in the month prior to the survey, two-thirds have tried smoking cigarettes at some time in their lifetime, and five percent used smokeless tobacco recently.

Additionally, one in six adolescents (15.6%) reported that they had smoked a cigar or cigarillo in the month prior to the survey, with rates among males (23.0%) being significantly higher than those among females (7.9%). The question about cigar/cigarillo smoking was asked for the first time on the 1999 survey, so no cross-year comparison data are available.

Other results of the survey show that most high school students who do smoke have tried to quit, but without much success. Almost three-quarters (73%) of adolescents who described themselves as ever having been regular smokers had tried to quit at least once, but at the time of the survey only 17% of these ever-regular smokers had not smoked cigarettes in the previous month.

For more information on the summary report visit

Last Updated: November 22, 1999

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