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Fewer U.S. Teens Are Smoking Cigarettes

Every day, thousands of young people pick up the habit of smoking. But a new report says the number of teen smokers in the United States is actually decreasing.

Brittany Villarreal wishes she had never smoked. "I want to quit so bad, but it's hard," she says.

According, to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a non-governmental group that tries to protect children from tobacco addiction and exposure to secondhand smoke, it takes only three cigarettes to become addicted to smoking.

An estimated 22 percent of American high school kids smoke, and according to Cathy Backinger, chief of the Tobacco Control Research Branch at the National Cancer Institute in the United States, approximately one-third of young smokers will eventually die from a smoking-related illness.

"Three out of four kids have tried to quit smoking and have failed, and we know that two out of three say that they wish they never started smoking," says Ms. Backinger.

"I'm trying to hard to quit but it's always there,” says Brittany. “It's something that's going to haunt me for the rest of my life."

Despite the grim facts about teen smoking, researchers at the University of Michigan say smoking rates among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders in the U.S. are at their lowest level since 1975. They say the percentage of kids smoking today is far below the peak levels seen in the mid-1990s.

Contributing to that decrease is the high cost of cigarettes, the success of anti-smoking advertisement campaigns, and aggressive school education programs.

One school in the Northeastern state of Maine is targeting kids as young as elementary school, before they are tempted by their first cigarette.

Says one elementary school child, "I learned you shouldn't smoke, even if you see other people doing it."

Declining numbers of young smokers is good news because it means there likely will be fewer adult smokers in the decades ahead.