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Smoking rates decline steeply in teens in 2021

Youth smoking dropped to an all-time low of 2.3% in 2021 – down from nearly 23% in 2000 – according to recent data from the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future study, representing a colossal win for public health initiatives tackling smoking in young people, including those led by Truth Initiative®.

Truth Initiative’s 20-plus years of lifesaving work has prevented millions of young people from becoming smokers, including 2.5 million between 2015 and 2018 alone. Numerous peer-reviewed studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of truth®, which gives young people the facts about tobacco use and is ubiquitous in youth culture with high brand awareness of nearly 80% among young people. For example, a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2009 found that the first four years of the truth public education and prevention campaign were directly responsible for keeping 450,000 teens from starting to smoke. And in just one year, from 2015-16, truth prevented more than 300,000 U.S. youth and young adults from becoming smokers, according to research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Research published in 2021 also shows that the truth campaign is broadly effective among important demographic groups – including young Black Americans, those with lower incomes, and those who live in rural areas – that have been historically targeted by the tobacco industry and are at higher risk of tobacco use.


Youth smoking dropped to an all-time low of 2.3% in 2021 – down from nearly 23% in 2000


Vaping nicotine among teens also dropped in 2021 to 13.3%

Smoking and vaping among young people declines in 2021

The same approach that has successfully helped bring down the teen smoking rate to historic lows is also starting to make a difference in the youth vaping epidemic. According to MTF, Vaping nicotine among teens also dropped in 2021 to 13.3% from its 2019 peak of 18.1%, showing progress in the fight to curb youth nicotine vaping and signaling that efforts to provide education to prevent e-cigarette use and quitting resources are starting to work.

Research shows that strong truth brand awareness is significantly associated with a lower likelihood of current vaping. Young people who have seen truth vaping prevention campaigns were also more likely to have accurate e-cigarette knowledge, believe that e-cigarettes were harmful and socially unacceptable, and hold anti-tobacco industry attitudes compared to those unaware of the campaign.

The decrease in cigarette and e-cigarette use among teens also comes at a time of broader decline in illicit drug use. Michigan researchers attribute the declines to the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting the ability of young people to access these substances, use them outside of parental supervision, and access peer groups who may encourage their use.

Quitting especially important since mental health concerns are on the rise

Despite this progress, e-cigarette use among young people remains high. Many want to quit, according to Truth Initiative research published in Preventive Medicine Reports. A majority of current young e-cigarette users surveyed say they intend to quit, with one-third reporting a past-year quit attempt and 15% aiming to quit in the next month.

Survey data from Monitoring the Future also found significant increases in mental health concerns among teens across all measures, with youth reporting significant increases in feeling anxious, angry, annoyed/irritable, bored, sad, lonely, depressed, or worried as well as increased difficulty sleeping, being interested in normal activities, and concentrating. The findings underscore the importance of quitting vaping – especially given the link between quitting nicotine-containing e-cigarettes and improved mental health outcomes.

Truth Initiative’s This is Quitting® (TIQ), the first-of-its-kind program from truth to help young people quit vaping, has helped more than 370,000 youth and young adults on their journey to quit vaping. Teens and young adults can text “DITCHVAPE” to 88709 and get immediate help. Parents of young people who vape can get support at