Did young people (teens) not smoke during the 1980c?

I may be remembering this wrong, but it seemed to me that there were a lot fewer “young smokers” during the 1980s. I remember being shocked, sometime in the early 1990s, when I saw youngsters with the “cancer sticks” for the first time in a while.

So, is this my memory being faulty, or did the incidence of smoking among young teens go down dramatically during the 1980s, only to rise in the early 1990s?

I was behind the gymnasium.

I was in high school from 1983-1987 and, in the beginning, we had a courtyard where students were allowed to smoke during lunch time. There would be smoking going on in the bathrooms, also, so it was definitely not unusual. In fact I remember going off to college in '87 and being surprised at how few people smoked there compared to H.S.

According to this, smoking rates remained level during the 1980’s, but rose by 27.5 percent during 1991.

I didn’t find any numbers of teen smokers during the '80’s, but that type of increase indicates a pretty big increase.

Trust me, there were plenty. I couldn’t walk into the boy’s bathroom to take a piss without coming out smelling like a chimney.

It was very common. My high school was like Skammer’s - there was an area outside an entryway where smoking was allowed, and there were lots & lots of smokers.

We all pretty much smoked, I think. At least, most of my crowd did. At least two of my good friends developed bad smoking habits that they are still struggling with. I count it lucky that I never got addicted, since I certainly smoked enough that I could have.

It could just be that during the 90’s smoking on campus because less acceptable and so you saw more kids smoking in the neighborhood. At the highschool I went to, the smoking breezeway thing was done away with somewhere in the late-80’s/ early-90’s, which sent vast gangs of smoking teenagers roaming the neighborhood every lunch period.

Rhythmdvl. In the billiard room. With a cancer stick.

I’m not sure that’s an accurate description of what your linked article said:

That is, over the course of the early 90’s the percentage of surveyed high-schoolers who reported having smoked within the past month rose nearly 18 percentage points. Alternatively, the smoking rate among high-schoolers increased by about 27% over that four-year time period.

Just an anecdote, but in my school (not in the U.S.) we were not only allowed to smoke in a certain area of the schoolyard from age sixteen on, we also had a whole former classroom in a pavilion we could smoke in. I started the habit with fifteen in 83, and couldn’t shake it off until today.

Then, I worked several years in an educational institute with youths from 18-25, and I didn’t find their smoking behavior much different than that from the time of my own youth. And these were mostly kids from a difficult social background, where smoking generally seems more prevalent than in the average population (I’m not judging here, how could I as a smoker myself).

Interesting responses so far! I graduated high school in 1979. None of my close friends smoked, but I did know some smokers. (I forget how many, my memory is fuzzy on the prevalence of the habit.) I then went to a conservative Christian college and graduated in 1983 – smoking was pretty much nonexistent there!

In my (somewhat limited) experience, I saw very little smoking going on amongst people of this age group during the 1980s, so I thought – erroneously, it turns out – that we had “beaten the habit”. Not too many teenagers picking up the “cancer sticks”! A very good thing!

And then, I was distressed to see quite a number of young teens with the foul things in the early 1990s. I had been wrong! The newer generation had not “kicked the habit / never started to begin with”, after all.

That is the problem with using your own experience (or relying on my sometimes-quite-flawed memory), and erroneously interpreting it on a grander scale. It seems like quite a number of teens were smoking all this time (the 1980s), and I just did not see the phenomenon myself. Interesting!

A big change from when I went to high school (1988-1992) and when my sister went to high school six years earlier (1982-1986) was that they had banned smoking on the entire school grounds, inside and out by the time I got there. I can’t remember exactly how the smokers got around it, I know that police would ticket kids who smoked on the sidewalk across the street from school for loitering to discourage that, even though it was “off school grounds”. I suppose inside cars in the parking lot was their main refuge, and if not, the park within walking distance but still within sight of the school.

And most kids who smoked (generally “the grits” in the local slang) seemingly took up the habit in the summer between sixth grade (end of grade school in our town) and seventh grade, when kids from about eight different elementary schools were jammed into a single junior high building, though that probably wasn’t exactly the case. :slight_smile:

Oops, thanks for catching that.

I was graduated from high school in 1987. We had a designated smoking area for students just outside the machine shop. I was not a regular smoker at the time, but I used to go down there and bum one from time to time. I can’t see that happening nowdays. (Legal age to buy cigarettes was still 18 back then, but nobody *ever *carded.)

To expound on my earlier post, we had a smoking area when I started high school but ISTR it was only for upperclassmen. Then by the time I graduated, smoking was not allowed anywhere on school grounds (except maybe the teacher’s lounge). I didn’t smoke so I didn’t really pay close attention.

I graduated in 1986 and we too had a designated smoking area. The only thing though, is that hardly no one smoked and if you did, you were considered a dirty loser (not my opinion of course, but that’s what made the rounds). I considered the lack of smoking to there being such an enormous push over Just Say No and this was a fall-out by-product.

Attitudes seemed to change about the time Reality Bites hit movie theatres.

Class of 1980–there was a smoking court.

Here’s a chart of trends in smoking among adults and high school students in the U.S. from 1965 to 2009:


As you can see, the basic trend among adults is a slow but steady decline from about 42% in 1965 to about 20% in 2009. There were no surveys taken among high school students from before 1991. As you can see, there was a rapid rise from about 25% in 1991 to about 36% in 1997 and then a drop to about 19% in 2009. Why precisely it happened this way I don’t know, but apparently in the late 1960’s through (about) the late 1980’s, there was a drop in smoking for high school students, just like for adults. Suddenly it became hip to smoke for a few years. Then it ceased to be hip suddenly.

My first morning duty as a high school teacher was student smoking duty, 1984. Lots of high schoolers lunging down coffin nails then, but it was in a big S. Georgia tobacco town.

I remember a lot of kids smoking in high school back in the 1970s. I’m sure much of that was due to looking adult grown ups smoked, and smoking made you look grown up. In the 1980s, the number of smokers started to drop in the adult population, and I bet it also led to a drop in the youth population too. If adults weren’t smoking, smoking didn’t make you look grown up.

In the 1990s, the cigarette manufacturers started changing their advertising strategy. They started paying for more product placement in movies, sports venues that tended to attract the younger crowd, and in magazines with heavy teenage readership. If there was a rise in smoking, I bet it was from this change in tactics.

The cigarette companies claimed they were merely chasing their customers. Since their customers were younger (but not below 18 of course), they had to reach them through media that attracted the younger crowd. Others claimed that the cigarette companies were purposefully advertising to pre-adults in order to get a new generation of customers hooked on cigarettes and because their own studies showed that younger smokers tended to be more brand loyal. These were the days when you’d see the cartoon character Joe Camel on billboards around school yards.

From what people are telling me now, smoking is once again down in high school.