Youth and Tobacco Use

Nearly 90% of adult smokers began smoking at or before the age of 18.  If someone has not started smoking by age 21, it is not likely they will.  The peak years for starting tobacco products are in 6th and 7th grade or at ages 11 and 12.

Nearly one out of every seven children is a current smoker by the time they leave high school.  More than one-third of all kids who ever try smoking a cigarette become regular, daily smokers before leaving high school.  Cigarette smoking among youth has been on a decline, but other forms of tobacco use are on the rise.


Current Trend

Electronic Nicotine Device Systems (ENDS), such as e-cigarettes, are devices that typically deliver nicotine, flavorings, and other additives to users through an inhaled aerosol, are a rapidly emerging trend, and are especially popular among youth and young adults.  These devices are referred to by a variety of names, include "e-cigs", "e-hookahs:, "mods", "vape pens", and "tank systems."  E-cigarettes can also be used to deliver other drugs besides nicotine, such as marijuana/cannabis.

DPH ENDS Fact Sheet

Factors associated with youth tobacco use:
  • The way the media show tobacco use as a normal activity can promote smoking among young people.
  • Youth are more likely to use tobacco if they see that tobacco use is acceptable or normal among their peers.
  • Parental tobacco use may promote smoking amount young people.
  • There is a strong relationship between youth smoking and depression, anxiety, and stress.
  • Lower socioeconomic status, including lower income or education.
  • Lack of skills to resist influences to tobacco use.
  • Lack of support or involvement from parents.
  • Accessibility, availability, and price of tobacco products.
  • Low levels of academic achievement.
  • Low self-image or self-esteem.
  • Exposure to tobacco advertising.


Symptoms of addiction can appear in youth within weeks or even days after occasional smoking first begins and well before daily smoking has even started. Some youth experience dependence within a day of first inhaling. The addiction rate for smoking (percentage of experimenters who become habitual users) is higher than the addiction rates for marijuana, alcohol or cocaine.  Most long term smokers started smoking as youth.   Delaying the age of first experimentation or smoking can reduce the risk that youth become regular or daily smokers and increase their chances of successfully quitting if they do begin regular smoking.



It can take an average of 7 quit attempts before quitting successfully. 3 out of 4 U.S. high school students who smoke have tried to quit but failed. Only 1 in 7 U.S. students have successfully stopped smoking for just 30 days. Only 3% of youth smokers say they will not be still smoking in 5 years but more than 60% are still regular daily smokers 7 to 9 years later.


Fact Sheets

Youth and Tobacco Use in Connecticut

Trends in Youth Smoking in Connecticut

Youth Secondhand Smoke Exposure in Connecticut


More Information about Youth and Tobacco

Truth Initiative (Youth Prevention)

FDA Fresh Empire

Tobacco Industry Marketing Youth

American Lung Association of MN - The Lethal Lure

Connecticut School Health Survey

2012 Surgeon General's Report - Preventing Tobacco Use Among Adolescents and Young Adults



Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids

CDC Tobacco Use among Youth


Back to the Tobacco Control Program home page

Last updated on October 20, 2021