Youth Smoking Rates Stagnate

White House Must Release Proposed Tobacco Product Regulation so that FDA Can Take Steps to Protect Kids

Washington, D.C. (November 14, 2013)

New data released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that cigarette and cigar smoking rates among middle and high school youth are unchanged and that high school boys are smoking at higher rates than high school girls. This highlights the urgent need for the White House to release the proposed regulation that would give the Food and Drug Administration authority over all tobacco products, including cigars, e-cigarettes, little cigars, pipe tobacco and hookah. Currently, these products remain without any federal oversight. Absent meaningful oversight, manufacturers are free to use candy flavors to hook kids.

This study contains troubling results, showing that while overall cigarette use among high school students was 14 percent and cigar use was 12.6 percent, these numbers were higher among high school boys at 16.3 percent and 16.7 percent, respectively. Cigar use among African American high school students more than doubled since 2009 – a disturbing trend.

“Too many children are becoming addicted. We cannot afford to lose another generation to tobacco,” said Paul G. Billings, Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Education. “These data show the urgent need for federal oversight of all tobacco products – cigars, e-cigarettes, little cigars, pipe tobacco and hookah. The Obama Administration must halt its delay and allow the FDA to move forward with meaningful regulations to protect public health.”

This study released also highlights how important it is for states to enact proven policies that will prevent youth from starting to smoke, including investing in tobacco prevention programs, passing smokefree laws, and increasing tobacco taxes. More than 40 states received an F in the American Lung Association’s “State of Tobacco Control 2013” for failing to invest even half of what is recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in proven tobacco prevention programs.

States and the federal government have also failed to raise taxes on tobacco products other than cigarettes. This has led to a surge in the consumption of certain cheaper tobacco products, including flavored cigars that are popular among already vulnerable populations – youth, low income communities, Hispanics and LGBT.

“States are failing our kids and allowing the tobacco industry to win,” added Billings. “State policymakers know what they need to do to reduce tobacco use among our kids. So why aren’t they?”

Data about e-cigarette use among middle and high school youth was previously released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September. These data show an alarming increase in e-cigarette use among middle school and high school students in the U.S. From 2011-2012, the number of students in grades 6-12 reporting having ever used an e-cigarette more than doubled from 3.3 percent to 6.8 percent. Recent use of e-cigarettes among 6-12 year olds increased from 1.1 percent to 2.1 percent.

E-cigarette use increased among middle school students from 0.6 to 1.1percent and among high school students from 1.5 to 2.8 percent. Hookah use increased among high school students from 4.1 to 5.4 percent.

The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (Tobacco Control Act) gave FDA immediate authority over cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products. The Tobacco Control Act also gave FDA the ability to then assert authority or “deem” jurisdiction over all other tobacco products, including cigars, e-cigarettes, hookah and pipe tobacco – the next generation of tobacco products that are being used to target kids. A proposal to assert authority over additional tobacco products has been under review at the White House Office of Management and Budget since October 1, 2013. In September, the American Lung Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and 15 other public health and medical organizations sent a letter to President Obama, asking for his leadership in ensuring FDA moves forward promptly with its oversight of these products.

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