Report: Fourth of high schoolers smoke cigarettes

Mar 19, 2012

One in four high school seniors smoke cigarettes.  That’s according to a new report from the U.S. Surgeon General’s office.

The Surgeon General’s report shows that the vast majority of smokers try their first cigarette by age 18.  On average, Missouri smokers first light up by age 16.  In fact, 18 percent of Missouri high schoolers say they’ve smoked cigarettes in the past month.  Matt Kuhlenbeck is the program director for community health and prevention for the Missouri Foundation of Health.  He says prevention starts on the home front. 

“If your parents are smokers you’re twice to three times more likely to become a tobacco user yourself,” Kuhlenbeck said.

But it’s not just kids.  The Missouri Foundation for Health says all Missourians smoke too much.  20 percent of Missouri adults smoke.  That’s slightly more than the national average of 18 percent.  Kuhlenbeck says despite these numbers, there has been progress. 

“We are heading in a direction that a lot of other states are not.  And so it’s kind of on us to keep that momentum going,” he added.

Missouri has gone from the third highest tobacco prevalence rate to the eleventh.