Welcoming news is coming out from the Keystone State as youth tobacco and vapor product use continues to decline and young adult smoking rates reach the lowest levels recorded.

According to data from the Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS), in 2021, 3.7% of middle schoolers (defined as 6th and 8th graders) and 12.5% of high schoolers (defined as 10th and 12th graders) reported ever using a combustible cigarette. Among middle schoolers, lifetime use of combustible cigarettes has declined by 19.6% since 2019 and by 38.8% since 2017. Among high school students, ever-use of combustible cigarettes has declined by 27% since 2019 and by 87.2% since 2017.

Regarding current use, or having used a tobacco or vapor product in the 30 days prior to the survey, among middle school students less than 1% (0.85%) reported current use and only 3.7% of high schoolers had used a combustible cigarette in the month prior. Current smoking among middle schoolers in Pennsylvania has declined by 29.2% since 2019, and by 45.2% since 2017. Among high school students, current smoking rates have decreased by 35.7% since 2019 and by 61.2% since 2017 when 10.7% reported current cigarette use.

While policymakers should celebrate the tremendous decline in youth combustible cigarette use, arguably the most harmful form of tobacco, they should also be aware that youth vaping is also decreasing in the Keystone State.

According to PAYS, in 2021, 6% of middle schoolers and 20% of high schoolers reported past-month e-cigarette use. Similar to national and state surveys, youth vaping seems to have peaked in 2019 and has declined since then. In fact, between 2019 and 2022, vaping among Pennsylvania middle schoolers decreased by 26.4% from 8.2% in 2019. Among high school students, vaping decreased by 33.1% from 29.8% in 2019.

There is more welcoming news about adult and young adult combustible cigarette use. According to results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey, in 2021, only 14.4% of Pennsylvania adults were current smokers, an 8.9% decrease from 2020’s 15.8%. Among adults aged 18 to 24 years old, only 7.7% were current smokers in 2021. This is one of the lowest rates of smoking recorded among young adults in Pennsylvania. Further, smoking rates among young adults have decreased by 3.8% since 2020, by 38.9% since 2016, and by a whopping 73.1% since 1995 when more than one-fourth (28.6%) of 18- to 24-year-olds were current smokers.

Policymakers should be informed of updated youth tobacco and vapor rates, as well as recent smoking declines among young adults and all adults in the Keystone State. While youth use of age-restricted tobacco and vapor products is declining, their introduction to the U.S. marketplace has not led to an increase in smoking rates and, in fact, could be helping to lead to low levels of young adult cigarette use.

This is part of a blog series of state analyses examining recent youth tobacco and vapor surveys.

Lindsey Stroud is a Visiting Fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum, Director of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance’s Consumer Center, and a board member with the American Vapor Manufacturers Association.