Nearly 1.5 million children and adolescents will try their first cigarette this year
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) today praised United States Surgeon General, Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, for releasing a new comprehensive report and calling on the nation to make the next generation tobacco-free.
The new report, Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults, is the first update on the subject from the Surgeon General since the initial report in 1994. The report shows that far too many youth and young adults are still using tobacco, and that today more than 600,000 middle school students and 3 million high school students are smoking cigarettes.
“Tobacco is a killer, and too many of our young people are its victims,” said Dr. Robert W. Block, president, American Academy of Pediatrics. “This report shines a light on the public health crisis we are facing: Each day more than 1,200 people die due to smoking. For every one of those deaths, at least two new youths or young adults become regular smokers. We don't have a moment to lose in protecting the American public, especially children, from the harm caused by these dangerous products.”
The report provides further scientific evidence of young people’s sensitivity to nicotine. The younger people are when they start using tobacco, the more likely they are to get addicted and the more heavily addicted they will become. Nicotine addiction will cause about three out of four teens to smoke into adulthood, even if they intend to quit after a few years. Tobacco marketing and advertising are also key factors in causing young people to start using tobacco. Ninety-nine percent of all new smokers come from youth and young adult populations who are enticed to smoke by this deceptive marketing. Nearly a third of top-grossing movies for children in 2010 – those with G, PG, or PG-13 ratings – contained images of tobacco use.
“As pediatricians, and parents, we need to send a clear message to the studios that this must stop now," said Dr. Block.
Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon declared as unconstitutional proposed graphic cigarette warning labels required by the Food and Drug Administration. The new labeling, which was required as part of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, is meant to be larger and more prominently displayed on cigarette packs than previous warnings. Both the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization have concluded that pictorial health warnings on tobacco packages are a cost-effective means to increase public awareness about the dangers of tobacco use.
“More than $1 million an hour is spent on marketing tobacco products in this country. The Surgeon General’s report clearly demonstrates the need for intensified and sustained efforts—including mass media campaigns—to prevent our young people from using and being exposed to tobacco,” continued Dr. Block. “This is exactly why the recent ruling by Judge Leon should not be allowed to stand. Images in tobacco marketing make tobacco use look appealing to young people. Warning labels play a critical role in educating children, teens and parents about the negative health impacts of tobacco. By ignoring health harms from tobacco, we are not only sustaining incredible costs in health care, but we are also risking the lives of youth and young adults. This is simply irresponsible.”
For more information, visit www.aap.org. The AAP Julius B. Richmond Center of Excellence is dedicated to eliminating children’s exposure to tobacco and secondhand smoke. For more information about the AAP’s anti- tobacco efforts, visit www.aap.org/richmondcenter.