Youth tobacco use prevention

Learn about youth-related tobacco industry tactics and what Massachusetts is doing to prevent youth tobacco initiation.

Youth-related tobacco industry tactics

Tobacco use is declining among Massachusetts youth: in 2017, 11.4% of Massachusetts high school youth reported current use of any conventional tobacco1 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 data from 2017 show that current cigarette smoking among Massachusetts high school students has decreased to 6.4% — the lowest level ever recorded.  (Youth Risk Behavior Survey 2017)

While conventional tobacco use has declined among high school youth, electronic cigarette use remains high. Current use of electronic nicotine delivery products (e-cigarettes and other vaping devices) by high school youth was 20.1% in 2017. This is almost twice the rate of current use of conventional tobacco products (11.4%) And y 41.1% of high school students reported ever using e-cigarettes (Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2017).  Nearly 10% of middle school students reported every using e-cigarettes (MA Youth Health Survey 2017)

Young people who are hooked on nicotine today face a lifetime of addiction. Nearly nine out of ten adult smokers started before they were 18. Because their bodies and brains are still developing, young people are especially vulnerable to nicotine addiction. Nicotine changes the pathways of the brain and interferes with normal development.

Other tobacco products and emerging products

Many other tobacco products (OTP), such as chewing tobacco, little cigars, and e-cigarettes that are in stores now 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. In 2017, 4 out of 5 high school students who currently use tobacco use flavored products (MA Youth Health Survey 2017).

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, read an overview of the full Surgeon General’s report, or visit MTCP’s public information campaign on vaping “The New Look of Nicotine Addiction” at

1 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) at any time in the past.

What Massachusetts is doing to prevent youth tobacco initiation

Engaging youth

The 84 is a statewide movement of youth fighting tobacco in Massachusetts. The 84 represents the 84% of Massachusetts youth who did NOT smoke when the movement began. Now, 93% of youth do not smoke.

Youth groups in a high school or community organizations who want to fight against the tobacco industry’s tactics sign up to become an 84 Chapter and be a part of the movement. Chapters educate their peers and adults about the tobacco industry’s tactics; help to create change locally and statewide to reduce the influence of tobacco in their communities; promote social norms messaging around youth tobacco use; and more!

Visit for more information about the movement against the tobacco industry led by youth, for youth.

Laws regarding tobacco sales to minors

Learn about local, state and federal laws related to tobacco.

For schools

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

Schools looking for a resource on school tobacco policies, applicable laws and a sample tobacco policy can see the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards’ School Tobacco Policies: Applicable Laws and Sample Policy.

Additional Resources

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