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What state has the highest percentage of teenage smokers?


Why do some states have more teen smokers?

A 2010 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention uses the numbers from the NSDUH survey to discuss why teen smoking is high in certain states, and how it can be combated. It's worth pointing out that this report goes off of the 2006-2007 survey, the most recent set of data available at the time it was written. While each state's numbers are slightly different, the overall trends were about the same.

One possible explanation links high rates of teen smoking with lower excise taxes on cigarettes. The idea is that higher taxes deter people from smoking, especially younger people, who usually don't have much disposable income. Specifically, cigarette taxes in Kentucky and Wyoming are less than 60 cents per pack [source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]. That brings the total price for a pack of cigarettes to around $3.70 [source: Boonn]. Cigarette taxes in states with fewer teen smokers were often higher, by comparison. For example, just the taxes in D.C. add $2.50 per pack, and in Hawaii, they add $2.60 per pack, making cigarettes very costly in these states, between $4.65 and $5.85 each [sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Boonn].

Another statistic that has a close relationship with the number of teen smokers is the percentage of homes in a given state where strong "no smoking" rules are established by parents. In Kentucky, 60.9 percent of homes have such a rule. This might seem high, but it's actually the lowest in the nation. In Utah, the state with the lowest rate of teen smoking, a full 90.6 percent of households have a "no smoking" rule. Nationally, the statistic falls in between on average, at 77.6 percent [source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]. Those figures are based on surveys of households in all 50 states, in which parents were asked whether they have rules forbidding children to smoke in the house.

States with more smokers also tend to have fewer laws regulating smoking in public places. Kentucky does not have any public smoking bans on the books, for workplaces, restaurants or bars. Other states with high rates of teen smoking, like Wyoming, Oklahoma and West Virginia, also lack public bans. States like Ohio and Montana, on the other hand, have enacted public smoking bans, but still have high instances of teen smoking [source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]. So, you can't necessarily draw a connection in every case.

Still, the statistics make a strong case that the more efforts state governments and parents make to discourage smoking among teens, the less teen smoking a given state will have.


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