CDC Study Shows Youth Smoking Rates Have Stagnated

Demonstrates Urgent Need for Congress to Pass FDA Legislation and for States to Fully Fund Tobacco Control Programs

(June 26, 2008)

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 26, 2008— An article in this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows, alarmingly, that the decline in smoking rates among high school students seen from 1997 to 2003 continues to stagnate. These results are an ominous sign as an overwhelming majority of smokers begin their deadly addiction during this critical stage of development in their lives. 

“Ninety percent of smokers start before their 21st birthday, and tragically up to one-half of them will eventually die from a tobacco-related disease,” said Bernadette A. Toomey, President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “This is a clear warning sign that our leaders must summon the political will to implement lifesaving policies we know will work to end our nation’s tobacco epidemic.” 

Legislation is pending before the U.S. Congress granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate tobacco products (S. 625/HR 1108) to help reduce the pervasive pedaling of tobacco products to our children. The legislation has passed out of committee in both the House and Senate, but is awaiting floor action in both houses. 

“Congress needs to immediately pass the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act to curb tobacco marketing to our youth,” explained Toomey. “Without this legislation in place, the tobacco companies will continue to market and sell candy-flavored cigarettes and other products aimed at addicting our nation’s most vulnerable citizens.” 

These results also speak to the states’ not fully funding and implementing comprehensive tobacco prevention and cessation programs. Thirty two states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico earned “F”s for failing to adequately fund their programs in the American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control 2007 report released in January. Only six states funded prevention programs at the levels recommended by the CDC in FY2008 (July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008 for most states). 

“The failure of states to fully fund comprehensive tobacco prevention programs is inexcusable – especially when examined in light of the amount of tobacco revenue that comes into their states each year,” Toomey stated. “These programs are proven and effective at reducing youth smoking rates. States can and must do better.” 

A couple of pieces of good news from the report: prevalence rates among Hispanic youth showed a large decline from 22 percent in 2005 to 16.7 in 2007 and prevalence rates among black female students declined to 8.4 percent in 2007. 

To view the CDC report, go to: www.cdc.gov/mmwr.    

About the American Lung Association: Beginning our second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to prevent lung disease and promote lung health. Lung disease death rates are currently increasing while other major causes of death are declining. The American Lung Association funds vital research on the causes of and treatments for lung disease. With the generous support of the public, the American Lung Association is “Improving life, one breath at a time.” For more information about the American Lung Association or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or log on to www.lung.org.