The decline in e-cigarette use was even greater, falling to 11.3 percent of high schoolers in 2016 from 16 percent in 2015.
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the use of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, by middle and high school students in the United States has dropped for the first time since it started tracking the use of the product by young people.
"While the number of high school students who use e-cigarettes is still too high, this rapid decline is a positive indicator that much youth e-cigarette use has been experimental and that the current offering of products may be less appealing to youth than feared", Robin Koval, the CEO and president of the Truth Initiative, said in a statement.
Still, the findings underscore the need to raise awareness about the potential harms as researchers continue to investigate the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes, said Dr. Alexander Prokhorov, director of the tobacco outreach education program at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
In the majority of countries, at least half of current tobacco smokers said they wanted to quit, the study also found. Among black high school students, cigars were the most commonly used product. They're considered a less unsafe alternative to regular cigarettes.
For middle-schoolers, rates of e-cigarette use dropped as well.
Big U.S. tobacco companies are all developing e-cigarettes, battery-powered gadgets with a heating element that turns liquid nicotine and flavorings into a cloud of vapor that users inhale.
The tobacco users made up 20.2 per cent of high school students and 7.2 per cent of middle school students.
A previous study conducted by the CDC also found that although the U.S. Surgeon General said that e-cigarette vapor might expose children to nicotine and harmful chemicals, one in three adults are not sure if the devices are risky to use around children.
Almost 2 million middle and high school students said they had used two or more tobacco products in the past 30 days.
Reynolds spokeswoman Jane Seccombe said the recent decline in youth use of all types of tobacco products "is really good news". In 2016, of all teens who now used tobacco, 47 percent of high school students and 42 percent of middle school students said they used two or more products.
In the 2015 Oregon Healthy Teens survey of 8th and 11th graders, e-cigarette use was commonly reported as the first tobacco product used among responding teens who now smoked cigarettes or used any tobacco product.
Brian Henry, the senior author of the CDC report, said the decrease in e-cigarette use is likely a result of several factors, including efforts by the government and public health groups to educate young people about possible hazards of the products. "If we backslide, these gains will only be temporary".
Another pillar of our efforts is to make sure retailers understand and take seriously their responsibility of keeping harmful and addictive tobacco products out of the hands of children. The CDC attributes the decrease in these products to educational anti-tobacco ad campaigns like commercials and policies that restrict youth access to tobacco.
Sheikh Mohammed Shariful Islam, AKM Mainuddin and Faiz Ahmed Bhuiyan of the International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research (icddr, b) and Kamrun Nahar Chowdhury of the National Centre for Control of Rheumatic Fever and Heart Disease, Dhaka, jointly conducted the study in 2016.