A new report from the U.S. surgeon general shows that more than 3.6 million U.S. youth smoke cigarettes, but proven strategies exist that can cut that number in half in six years.
The report, “Preventing Tobacco Use among Youth and Young Adults,” released Thursday, documents the scope of the problem while outlining proven strategies that prevent its use.
It also provides further evidence on the addictive nature of nicotine. The younger people are when they start using tobacco, the more likely they are to become addicted and the more heavily addicted they will become. Most teens who smoke in high school are likely to continue as adults.
“The addictive power of nicotine makes tobacco use much more than a passing phase for most teens,” said U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin in a news release. “Today, more than 600,000 middle school students and 3 million high school students smoke. We don’t want our children to start something now that they won’t be able to change later in life.”
Comprehensive tobacco control policies, mass media campaigns, price increases and other strategies have proven effective in preventing and reducing tobacco use among kids, according to the report.
“We know what works to prevent tobacco use among young people,” wrote Benjamin in the report.
Public health advocates point to a failure among policymakers, especially in states, to adequately support and invest in proven prevention programs and policies, and the power of tobacco industry marketing as chief reasons for widespread tobacco use among youth.
“The surgeon general’s report provides a powerful reminder that the tobacco industry is the main cause of the tobacco epidemic,” said Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, in a statement. “It concludes definitively that tobacco marketing causes kids to start and continue using tobacco products, finding that the scientific evidence ‘consistently and coherently points to the intentional marketing of tobacco products to youth as being a cause of young people’s tobacco use.’”