Daily Cigarette Use

Publication Date:

Aug 16, 2018

Key facts about daily cigarette use

  • Rates of daily conventional cigarette use among high school students have been in decline for the last two decades; after peaking in 1997 at 24.6 percent among twelfth-graders, the rate decreased to 4.2 percent by 2017.
  • As of 2017, the rate of e-cigarette use in the past 30 days among twelfth-graders was higher than the rate of conventional cigarette smoking (17 versus 10 percent, respectively).
  • In 2017, non-Hispanic white students were more likely to smoke conventional cigarettes daily than their non-Hispanic black or Hispanic peers in the eighth, tenth, or twelfth grades.

Trends in daily cigarette use

In 2017, approximately 1 percent of eighth-graders, 2 percent of tenth-graders, and 4 percent of twelfth-graders reported smoking conventional cigarettes daily, compared with 7, 14, and 21 percent, respectively, in 2000. Twelfth-grade daily smoking peaked in 1997 at 25 percent, while daily smoking peaked in 1996 for eighth- and tenth-graders, at 10 and 18 percent, respectively (Appendix 1).

Factors that may be associated with these long-term declines in smoking rates include the following: increases in the level of students’ disapproval of, and their perception of risk connected with, smoking; adverse publicity on the tobacco industry’s role in promoting addiction; a decline in cigarette advertising reaching youth, along with an increase in anti-smoking advertising; and substantial price increases for cigarettes.[1]

Although conventional cigarette use is declining, e-cigarette use is on the rise. From 2011 to 2017, the proportion of high school students who had used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days increased from 2 to 12 percent, while conventional cigarette use in the past 30 days declined from 16 to 8 percent.[2]

Differences by age

Daily smoking among students increases with age. While only 0.6 percent of eighth-graders reported daily conventional cigarette use in 2017, 4.2 percent of twelfth-graders reported the same. Additionally, while use of e-cigarettes in the past 30 days was lower in 2017 among eighth-graders than among their older peers, it was similar among tenth- and twelfth-graders (7 percent among eighth-graders, compared with 13 and 17 percent among tenth- and twelfth-graders, respectively) (Appendices 1 and 2).

Differences by race and Hispanic origin[3]

Non-Hispanic white students in the tenth and twelfth grades have higher rates of daily conventional cigarette use than their non-Hispanic black and Hispanic peers. In 2017, 3 percent of non-Hispanic white tenth-graders smoked cigarettes daily, compared with 1 and 2 percent, respectively, of non-Hispanic black and Hispanic tenth-graders. Among twelfth-graders, there was a similar difference, with 6 percent of non-Hispanic white students smoking daily, compared with 3 and 2 percent of non-Hispanic black and Hispanic students, respectively. Differences by race and Hispanic origin among eighth-graders were less pronounced in 2017, although rates for non-Hispanic white students were slightly higher (Appendix 1).

Differences by gender

In 2017, conventional cigarette smoking rates for males and females were comparable across all three grade levels. This represents a change from the beginning of the decade, when males were more likely to smoke cigarettes daily than females at all three grade levels (Appendix 1).

Male students are more likely to use e-cigarettes than their female peers. Among males in 2017, 7 percent of eighth-graders, 13 percent of tenth-graders, and 21 percent of twelfth-graders used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, compared with 6, 13, and 13 percent of females, respectively (Appendix 2).

Differences by parental education level

In general, students whose parents have high levels of education are less likely to smoke conventional cigarettes daily than students whose parents have low levels of education. For example, in 2017, among tenth-grade students with a parent who did not complete high school and students with a parent with only a high school diploma, 4 percent smoked cigarettes daily, compared with 1 percent of students with a parent who had completed college or graduate school.

In 2017, eighth- and tenth-grade students whose parents completed college were less likely to have used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days than their peers whose parents had less education. However, among twelfth-graders, there was no clear pattern of use by parental education (Appendix 2).

Differences by college plans

Eighth-grade students who do not plan to complete four years of college are roughly five times more likely to smoke conventional cigarettes daily than students who have such plans (1.8 versus 0.4 percent in 2017). At twelfth grade, this gap narrows, although those without college plans are still more than three times as likely to smoke as their peers with such plans (9 and 3 percent, respectively) (Appendix 1).

Patterns are similar in the case of e-cigarette use (Appendix 2).

Other estimates

State and local estimates

  • 2017 estimates of cigarette use are available for select states and cities from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) at: Kann, L., McManus, T., Harris, W. A., Shanklin, S. L., Flint, K. H., et al. (2018). Youth risk behavior surveillance – United States, 2017 [Tables 57, 59, 61, 63]. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 67(8). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/2017/ss6708.pdf.
  • Estimates of cigarette use in the past month among 12- to 17-year-olds are available for all 50 states for 2012–2013 from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health at: Lipari, R. N. & Hughes, A. (2015). The CBHSQ Report – State estimates of adolescent cigarette use and perceptions of risk of smoking: 2012 and 2013. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. Retrieved from http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_1964/ShortReport-1964.html.

NOTE: Estimates of drug use from the National Household Survey of Drug Abuse (NHSDA), used to generate these state-level estimates, are generally lower than estimates generated by the Monitoring the Future Survey (MTF). Since the MTF was the source of the national estimates presented in this indicator, users should not make direct comparisons of estimates made from the two sources. For information on methodological differences in the surveys that may be causing these differences in estimates, see:

Harrison, L. D. (2001). Understanding the differences in youth drug prevalence rates produced by the MTF, NHSDA, and YRBS studies. Journal of Drug Issues, 31(3), 665–694.

International estimates

  • Estimates for youth in European countries are available from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. (2016). ESPAD Report 2015: Results from the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs. Lisbon, Portugal: Author. Retrieved from http://www.espad.org/sites/espad.org/files/ESPAD_report_2015.pdf (see Table 3a).
  • A cross-country comparison of the percentage of youth who report smoking daily is available from The Global Youth Tobacco Survey Collaborative Group. (2002). Tobacco use among youth: A cross country comparison. Tobacco Control, 11(3), 252-270. Retrieved from http://tc.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/abstract/11/3/252.
  • The percentage of students who reported smoking cigarettes daily in 1997–1998 is available for 28 countries from the WHO Policy Series: World Health Organization. (2000). Health and health behavior among young people. Geneva, Switzerland: Author. Retrieved from http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/119571/E67880.pdf (page 98).

Data and appendices

Data source

Data for 1976–2017: Source: Johnston, L. D., Miech, R. A., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2018). Demographic subgroup trends among adolescents in the use of various licit and illicit drugs, 1975–2017 (Monitoring the Future Occasional Paper No. 90) [Tables 127–132; 141]. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research. Retrieved from http://monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/occpapers/mtf-occ90.pdf.

Raw data source

The Monitoring the Future Survey.



Appendix 1. Percentage of Students in Grades 8, 10, and 12 who Report Smoking Cigarettes Daily¹: Selected Years, 1976–2017

Appendix 2. Percentage of Students in Grades 8, 10, and 12 who Report Smoking E-Cigarettes or Cigarettes Any Time in the Past 30 Days: 2017



Students were considered daily cigarette smokers if they indicated that they smoked one or more cigarettes per day in the last 30 days.

Students were considered e-cigarette smokers if they indicated they used any e-cigarettes in the past 30 days. The question referred to “electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes.”


[1] Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2011). Monitoring the future: National results on adolescent drug use, Overview of key findings. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research. Retrieved from http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/monographs/mtf-overview2010.pdf.

[2] Wang, T. W., Gentzke, A., Sharapova, S., Cullen, K. A., Ambrose, B. K., et al. (2018). Tobacco product use among middle and high school Students — United States, 2011–2017. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 67(22), 629–633. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6722a3.htm.

[3] To derive percentages for each racial/ethnic subgroup, data for the specified year and the previous year have been combined to provide more stable estimates. Estimates for white and black youth exclude Hispanic youth and youth of two or more races. Hispanic youth include persons identifying as Mexican American or Chicano, Cuban American, Puerto Rican, or Other Hispanic or Latino, and no other racial/ethnic group.

Suggested Citation

Child Trends Databank. (2018). Daily cigarette use. Retrieved from: https://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=daily-cigarette-use