States Can Cut Youth Tobacco Use in Half in Six Years

American Lung Association Urges States to Heed Surgeon General’s Recommendations

Washington, D.C. (March 8, 2012)

Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults, the new report released today by U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, sends a powerful message: the failure of states to invest in proven policies and programs has resulted in 3 million new youth and young adult smokers, a third of whom will ultimately die from their addiction. The report also concludes that if states begin to invest in comprehensive programs today, youth tobacco use can be cut in half in just six years.

“This report underscores the critical importance of preventing tobacco use among youth and young adults,” said Charles D. Connor, President and CEO of the American Lung Association. “This is a wakeup call to all policymakers and community leaders that tobacco addiction is a vicious and deadly cycle that can and must come to an end.”

Youth tobacco use was last reported on by the U.S. Surgeon General in 1994. This 31st Report finds that immediate health consequences occur in young adults much earlier than previously reported. When young people smoke, they cause early and permanent damage to their lungs – potentially stunting the growth of their lungs and increasing their risk for developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the third leading cause of death in the US.

Much like the first Surgeon General’s Report on smoking issued 48 years ago, this report provides powerful scientific evidence that action is needed to reduce the number one cause of preventable disease in the US. Unlike that 1964 Surgeon General’s report, however, today’s report is clear on what steps must be taken to reduce tobacco use in the US.

Evidence is Clear: States are Failing to Invest in Proven Tobacco Prevention Programs

According to the report, more than 600,000 middle school and 3 million high school students smoke. Much of this can be attributed to the failure of states to maintain investments and funding of comprehensive prevention and cessation programs that were in place between 1997 and 2003.

In January, the Lung Association released its annual State of Tobacco Control report which found that virtually every state is failing to fund tobacco control programs at levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In Fiscal Year 2012, states spent $477.1 million – only 12.9 percent out of the $3.7 billion the CDC recommends states invest in tobacco prevention programs. In addition, states spent only 1.86 percent on tobacco control and prevention of the $25.6 billion they received from state cigarette excise taxes and tobacco Master Settlement Agreement payments.

Comprehensive tobacco programs also save states money. A recent study showed that Washington State saved $5 in tobacco-related hospitalization costs for every $1 it spent on tobacco prevention program from 2000-2009.

Ruthless Tobacco Industry Continues to Prey on Youth

At the same time states are cutting back, the Surgeon General found that the tobacco industry is finding new ways to target kids through marketing and price promotions that reduce the cost of key products targeting youth consumers.

“It is astonishing that every hour of every day, the tobacco industry spends another $1 million on marketing,” said Connor. “As we all know, the majority of teens and young adults are impressionable and susceptible to marketing campaigns and price promotions.”

“Sadly this report finds that for every smoker who dies each day from tobacco-related disease, they are replaced by two new, younger smokers. But there is good news: evidence shows that if we work together to implement comprehensive, science-based tobacco prevention and cessation policies, we can intervene and protect America’s youth and young adults from tobacco’s deadly addiction,” said Connor.

Mass media campaigns are one of the most effective ways tobacco use can be reduced. These campaigns have the effect of prompting smokers to quit and discouraging youth from starting. The report finds these campaigns are even more effective when linked to other proven changes, including smokefree laws and increases in tobacco taxes.

This summer the American Lung Association will be releasing a report, as part of its Disparities in Lung Health Series, that will examine the prevalence of tobacco addiction and exposure to secondhand smoke among youth and adults in rural America.

The Lung Association has been successfully helping smokers quit for more than 30 years with our Freedom From Smoking program. In addition, the Lung Association’s Not-On-Tobacco® (N-O-T) program is designed for smokers aged 14 to 19 who want to quit and is America’s most popular smoking cessation program for teens. For assistance with quitting smoking or for additional questions about lung health, please call the American Lung Association’s Lung HelpLine at 1-800-548-8252.

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About the American Lung Association
Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is “Fighting for Air” through research, education and advocacy. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit www.lung.org.