There's no denying that teen smoking is a problem in the United States. According to surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during 2007 and 2008, 9.46 percent of American teens were smokers [source: Hughes]. But depending on what part of the country you live in, teen smoking may be more or less prevalent. By region, the Midwest and the South lead the country in teen smokers, with 10.95 and 9.95 percent, respectively. The West, with 7.83 percent teen smokers, does a little better [source: Hughes].
That data comes from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), a continuing project that surveys American households in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. To provide a little context, the study defines a teen as between the ages of 12 and 17, and defines a smoker as someone who has smoked at least one cigarette in the past month. So which state has the highest frequency of teens lighting up? That dubious distinction goes to the state of Kentucky, where 14.47 percent of teenagers smoked at the time of the survey [source: Hughes]. By comparison, 47 percent of adults 18 to 25 were cigarette smokers in Kentucky during the same period, and 32 percent of adults over the age of 25 [source: Hughes]. Kentucky led the nation in both of those age categories, as well.
Arkansas landed in second place (or 49th place, depending on how you look at it). Slightly more than 13 percent of teens in Arkansas smoked in 2008. Next were Wyoming and West Virginia, which both had a 12.94 percent teen smoking rate, and then Oklahoma, which had a rate of 12.11 percent. As for the state with the lowest percentage of teen smokers, that would be Utah, where just 5.77 percent of teens smoked. Following closely behind were California, with a 6.63 percent teen smoking rate, Hawaii, with 6.88 percent, and Washington, D.C., with 6.92 percent [source: Hughes].
On the bright side, teen smoking in the United States is actually on the decline. All but one of the states named above have had declines in the level of smoking teens when you compare the data from 2007-2008 with the 2005-2006 data. The one exception is Hawaii, where teen smoking increased, but only by eight hundredths of a percent [source: Hughes]. So why do some states have higher teen smoking rates than others? Read on to learn more.