Tobacco use is declining among Massachusetts youth: in 2015, 15.9% of Massachusetts high school youth reported current use of any tobaccoi products compared to 23.9% in 2009. In the past 20 years, cigarette use among Massachusetts youth has declined by more than 60%. The latest figures from 2015 show that current cigarette smoking among Massachusetts high school students has decreased to 7.7% — the lowest level ever recorded.

Young people who are hooked on tobacco today face a lifetime of addiction. Nearly all adult smokers (88%) started before they were 18. Because their bodies and brains are still developing, young people are especially vulnerable to nicotine addiction. Tobacco use changes the pathways of the brain and interferes with normal development.

Preventing young people from starting to use tobacco products will protect another generation from a lifetime of addiction. As youth smoking rates have declined due to higher prices and restrictions in access, the tobacco industry has responded with new products.

Many of other tobacco products (OTP), such as chewing tobacco, little cigars, and e-cigarettes that are in stores now, are designed to attract young people. They are sold in many flavors that appeal to young people, priced cheaply to encourage impulse buys, and available at a variety of locations, including gas stations, convenience stores, and pharmacies. These new products are largely exempt from current regulations that apply to cigarettes.

In 2016, the U.S. Surgeon General released a report stating that e-cigarette use among youth is an emerging public health threat. The report confirms that there is no acceptable level of nicotine when it comes to our kids. E-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is a highly addictive substance that can harm the developing brain. This report also confirms that the aerosol from e-cigarettes is not harmless. It can contain chemicals and particulates that are dangerous to the person using these products (“vaping”) and to anyone who may inhale that aerosol second-hand. For more information on e-cigarettes, please visit the Surgeon General's website or read an overview of the full Surgeon General’s report.

The rate of tobacco product use other than cigarettes was 16.8% among high school students in 2011. That is higher than the rate of cigarette use. Read more in the Youth Tobacco Use in Massachusetts: Survey Results from 1995 to 2015  pdf format of Youth Tobacco Use in MA: Survey Results from 1995-2015
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i. Current use is defined as use of tobacco products in the past 30 days. Any tobacco use is defined as the use of cigarettes, cigars (including little cigars and cigarillos) and smokeless tobacco (such as chewing tobacco, snuff, or dip).

Young people are a leading voice in preventing other young people from using tobacco products.

In Massachusetts, 84% of youth don't smoke, and many are working to combat big tobacco’s influence on their communities. The 84 is a youth-led movement fighting tobacco industry influence that is made up of chapters from across the state. The 84 chapters are active in cities, towns, schools, and community organizations. Visit The84.org for more information about the movement against the tobacco industry led by youth, for youth.

The Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation & Prevention Program (MTCP), with youth and community leaders, is combating big tobacco’s underhanded tactics to hook young people in Massachusetts by passing local regulations and other policies to decrease the impact of tobacco marketing on young people. The most effective policies increase the price of tobacco, limit its availability, and decrease youth's exposure to tobacco products.

For Retailers

  • Under 27: Show I.D, Under 18: No Sale materials and training guide reminding tobacco retailers to ask for a photo I.D.

For Schools

School health resources for educators and school administrators address broad school health issues of physical activity, healthy eating, and tobacco use prevention.

Resources for Schools about Smoke-Free Laws


This information is provided by the Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation & Prevention Program within the Department of Public Health.