Last year, only 5 percent of high school sophomores said they had smoked cigarettes daily in the previous 30 days, compared with 18 percent of sophomores who were smoking daily at one point in the 1990s. The numbers have also plunged for eighth-graders and high school seniors, hitting their lowest point since the surveys began.
The change is just one of the findings in a vast new report on the well-being of American children, compiled by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. The report draws together research from a host of government agencies and research groups, including smoking surveys from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Besides being less likely to smoke, U.S. children are also less likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke than in the past, the report showed.
Danny McGoldrick, vice president for research for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, credited tobacco taxes, laws limiting where people can smoke and smoking prevention programs with reducing the numbers. However, the surveys show progress has slowed in recent years, with teenage smoking rates falling only slightly from 2011 to 2012.
"We need to invest in more of what has worked in the past to accelerate these declines," McGoldrick said.
Other findings from the report included:
•Birth rates have continued to drop among teenagers, falling for the fourth year in a row, according to preliminary data. As of two years ago, there were 15 births for every 1,000 teenagers ages 15 to 17 -- a striking decrease from four years earlier, when the rate was 22 per 1,000.
Last year, nearly a quarter of high school seniors reported binge drinking in the previous two weeks, a slight increase after earlier declines.
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