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.