Surgeon general urges states to invest in programs to prevent teen smoking
- on March 8, 2012
For every tobacco-related death, two young people will become regular smokers. Nearly 90 percent of these smokers try their first cigarette by age 18.
Today, U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin called on states to invest in programs and policies to prevent youth tobacco use. After years of steady progress, declines in the use of tobacco by youth have slowed for smoking and stalled for smokeless tobacco use.
“The addictive power of nicotine makes tobacco use much more than a passing phase for most teens. We now know smoking causes immediate physical damage, some of which is permanent,” Benjamin said in a news release. "We don't want our children to start something now that they won't be able to change later in life."
The surgeon general released a new 858-page report “Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults” that details the scope, health consequences and influences that lead to youth tobacco use.
Among the report’s statistics:
• 600,000 — middle school students smoke.
• 3 million — high school students smoke.
• One in four — high school seniors have smoked during the past 30 days.
• One in 10 — high school senior males are smokeless tobacco users.
• One in five — high school senior males smoke cigars.
• 99 — percent of smokers start by age 26.
• $27 million — spent on marketing and promotion of tobacco products per day.
• 1,200 — Americans die every day from tobacco use.
While the long-term health effects of tobacco use are well-known, this report — the last one was done in 1994 — concludes that smoking early in life has substantial health risks that begin immediately in young smokers. These include serious early cardiovascular damage and a reduction in lung functionality. The lung damage is permanent, causes shortness of breath immediately and increases the risk of pulmonary diseases later in life.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is working to prevent youth tobacco use through a variety of programs, said Ginger Park, communications manager for the Bureau of Health Promotions. In addition to providing education, it is advocating for tobacco-free school grounds. During the past year, KDHE added a free online smoking cessation resource because youths said they preferred using a computer versus calling a quit line.
“We still have a long way to go. Our work is not done by any means,” Park said.
• 14 — percent of high school students smoke.
• 14 — percent of high school males use smokeless tobacco.
• 23 — percent of young adults, ages 18 to 24, smoke.
On average, Kansas spends $2.5 million a year on tobacco prevention, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that the state spend $32.1 million. The report concludes that if states begin to invest in programs, youth tobacco use can be cut in half in just six years.