The United States Surgeon General Regina Benjamin has recently issued a report on teen smoking. Some of her findings include:
- One in four high school students smoke and 80 % of these children will continue to smoke as adults
- An estimated 3,800 kids pick up their first cigarette every day
- 9 in 10 current smokers started before the age of 18
- 99 per cent of all first time tobacco use happens by the age of 26
- Smoking kills more than 1,200 people every day and for every tobacco related death, two replacement smokers under the age of 25 take up the habit. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.
- Tobacco companies target youth and spend more than $1 million an hour and over $27 million per day in marketing and promoting tobacco products.
- Adolescents, because their bodies are developing, are more susceptible than adults to nicotine’s addictiveness and tobacco’s damage to hearts and lungs.
The three most effective ways to curb teenage smoking are passage of clean indoor air laws, increase the tobacco excise taxes and fully fund tobacco prevention programs.
The state of Kansas has an effective clean indoor air law. In Missouri many of the major cities in the state have clean indoor air laws, but unfortunately the state legislature has not seen fit yet to make this a statewide policy.
If Missouri voters approve an increase in the cigarette tax in November, revenues raised will partially be used to significantly increase prevention efforts in the state. Research shows that raising the price of cigarettes is the most important way to reduce teen age smoking. The Kansas cigarette tax is 79 cents per pack and in Missouri we currently pay only 17 cents per pack—the lowest in the nation.
Dr. Benjamin says the “pediatric epidemic” of smoking needs greater public action and attention. I agree! Please review the full Surgeon General report –it can be found at www.surgeongeneral.gov