Despite years of warning kids about the dangers of smoking, research shows that casual and occasional smoking is on the rise among U.S. high school students. While heavy smoking is down among teens nationwide, casual smoking rates are on the rise.
The study, which was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that smoking among teens rose from about 67 percent in 1991 to 79 percent in 2009, while heavy smoking fell from 18 percent to 8 percent.
Dr. Terry Pechachek, a study co-author from the Centers for Disease Control, said that as people were becoming more aware of the dangers of smoking the heavy patterns of use were becoming very rare, reports Reuters.
However, even occasional smoking posed significant health risks and could lead to creating a new type of smoker who find it easier to adapt "to smoke-free environments and to changing social norms," he added.
Pechacek believes that parents and teachers need to advise students about the harmful effects of smoking.
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The study defined heavy smokers as those who smoked more than 11 cigarettes a day. Moderate smoking comprised six to 10 cigarettes a day while light smoking was one to five cigarettes a day, added the report.
Researchers analyzed data from students in grades nine through 12 who participated in national Youth Risk Behavior Surveys, which included about 11,000 to 16,410 public and private high school students. The surveys included questions about health and smoking habits.