Last year on The PediaBlog, we noted the following encouraging trends in teen behavior, even using the words “responsible” and “teenagers” in the same sentence:

  • Tobacco and alcohol use. Both at historic low levels. (Smoking tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.)
  • Illicit drug use. Declining for the most part, though the use of cannabis has been steady.
  • Teen pregnancy rates. Cut in half over the past 20 years.
  • Youth incarceration rates. Down.
  • Bullying. All-time low.
  • Completed youth suicides. Well below historical highs.


Last month, we examined CDC data that supported this trend regarding alcohol use in teenagers:

During 1991–2007, the prevalence of current drinking among high school students declined significantly, from 50.8% (1991) to 44.7% (2007), and then significantly declined to 32.8% in 2015. The prevalence of binge drinking increased from 31.3% in 1991 to 31.5% in 1999, and then significantly declined to 17.7% in 2015.


And just last week, we learned that teen birth rates and infant mortality in the U.S. declined significantly:

The teen birth rate dropped 9% from 2013 to 2014, reveals the annual report published in the journal Pediatrics. This continues a historic decline and marks a 61% decrease since 1991, bringing the birth rate for women ages 15 to 19 down to 24.2 births per 1,000 women. The infant mortality rate also dropped 2.3% in 2014, reaching an all-time low of 5.82 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.


Smoking tobacco among youth has also fallen to historic lows in the United States and around the world. Toni Clarke notes the decline as a “historic public health victory” resulting from aggressive public messaging campaigns:

The number of middle and high school students who used any tobacco product fell to 3.9 million in 2016 from 4.7 million in 2015, figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show, the first such decline since the CDC began reporting the measure in 2011.

The number of high school students who smoked cigarettes in the 30 days prior to being surveyed fell to 8 percent from 9.3 percent in 2015, the data shows. In 2011 the number was 15.8 percent.


Even the use of e-cigarettes dropped, from 16% in 2015 to 11% in 2016. Young people, it appears, are getting the message of just how damaging tobacco smoke can be to their health and their livelihoods. According to the CDC:

— Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death, causing 6 million global citizens to die prematurely each year (480,000 deaths annually in the U.S.).

— More than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking. Every organ in the body is affected, resulting in conditions that cause a lot of illness and disability including cancer, heart disease, stroke, chronic lung disease like COPD, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis, immune system disorders, eye diseases, and erectile dysfunction in males.

— Studies on the costs of smoking show a greater than $300 billion hit to the economy, with nearly $170 billion going directly to cover health care claims and $156 billion in lost productivity.


For the 36.5 million (15% of) American adults who smoke currently, the filter on the mouth-end of the cigarette is not likely to save them. A recent study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggests that the incorporation of filters in the 1960s actually increased the risk of lung cancer in smokers. What also changed with cigarette filters was the histology, or cellular features, of lung tumor specimens. Before filters, pathologists reported equal proportions of squamous cell cancers, adenocarcinomas, and other pathologies (small cell and undifferentiated cancers). However, since filters became the norm, about 80-85% of lung cancers in smokers are adenocarcinomas. The study’s authors think they know why and are calling for a ban on what was once thought to be a safety feature of cigarettes:

Filter ventilation 1) alters tobacco combustion, increasing smoke toxicants; 2) allows for elasticity of use so that smokers inhale more smoke to maintain their nicotine intake; and 3) causes a false perception of lower health risk from “lighter” smoke… Altered puffing and inhalation may make smoke available to lung cells prone to adenocarcinomas. The analysis strongly suggests that filter ventilation has contributed to the rise in lung adenocarcinomas among smokers. Thus, the FDA should consider regulating its use, up to and including a ban.


Susan Scutti finds more evidence that the filter is a fraud:

Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, says the study is “easy to believe.”

“The smaller particles in filtered cigarettes get past the bronchial tubes into the smaller tubes, called bronchioles,” he said, explaining that this irritates the tissue in the periphery of the lung, where adenocarcinomas are found.

“Change in habit over several decades” in favor of filters led to a switch in pathology, Brawley said. He added that menthol cigarettes also allow deeper inhalation of cigarette smoke, since menthol is an anesthetic.


Lung cancer is a dreadful disease. Regardless of the cell type and despite new, targeted modalities of treatment, the five-year survival is still under 20%. Maybe young people are finally getting these facts about the dangers of smoking — as well as the dangers of alcohol, drugs, and becoming a teen parent — through their ears and into their brains.


(Google Images)