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CHILDREN AND TOBACCO
The tobacco industry must constantly recruit new smokers to replace the nearly 420,000 who die
each year; their main target is our nation's children.
"Nicotine addiction begins when most tobacco users are teenagers, so let's call this what it really is: a pediatric disease."
- David Kessler, M.D.
Conunissioner of the Food and Drug Administration
TOBACCO USE BEGINS EARLY...
According to the 1994 Surgeon General's Report, "Preventing Tobacco Use Among Young People":
* Everyday approximately 3,000 young people start smoking -- up to half of them become addicted.
* 90% of all smokers begin before age 18, more than one-third start before the age of fourteen.
67% of those who use smokeless tobacco begin before age 12.
* Today, at least 3.1 million adolescents smoke.
Once young people start using tobacco products, it becomes hard to stop; a 1988 Surgeon
General's report found that the nicotine in tobacco is as addictive as heroin or cocaine.
Most young smokers want to quit but are unable to do so. 84% of 12-17 year-olds who smoke
one or more packs of cigarettes per day report feeling dependent on cigarettes.
o 70% of those who smoked during high school are still smoking five years later.
UNTIL IT IS TOO LATE,
* Young smokers are susceptible to significant health problems, including decreased physical
fitness, respiratory illnesses, early development of artery disease, and reduced lung development
which may decrease the normal level of lung function.
* Rates of tobacco related illnesses are higher for people who begin smoking when they are
young. These illnesses include lung cancer, emphysema, and respiratory and cardiovascular
* Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States; it is responsible for 1
out of every 5 deaths each year.
STATE AND FEDERAL POLICIES EXIST...
On the federal level, in 1992 the Congress passed the "Synar Amendment," a policy designed to
discourage tobacco use among young people. This law encourages states to enact and enforce
comprehensive laws to prohibit the sale and distribution of tobacco products to individuals under
18 years of age. States that do not comply will be denied full block grant funds for substance
abuse prevention and treatment.
On the state level, all 50 states and the District of Columbia ban sales of tobacco products to
individuals who are, at a minimum, under the age of 18.
BUT MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE,
Unfortunately, current laws are rarely enforced.
A study in the February 1994 issue of the American Journal of Public Health found that 91 % of
all cigarettes smoked by teenagers are sold to minors. In 1991, an estimated 255 million packs of
cigarettes were sold illegally to young people.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of young people who purchase
cigarettes, 84.5 % reported they often or sometimes purchased cigarettes from small stores, 49.5
% made the same claim about purchase from large stores, and 14.5% sometimes or often obtained
cigarettes from vending machines.
The Coalition on Smoking OR Health recommends that each state enact comprehensive laws
restricting youth access to tobacco products. A group of 27 state Attorneys General and the
Coalition prescribe legislative remedies such as:
These solutions are effective and popular.
A 1994 survey conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that the American
public strongly supports measures that would prohibit cigarette vending machines accessible to
kids (91 %), ban distribution of free cigarettes in public (88%), forbid the sale of single cigarettes
(82%) and require tobacco products to be placed behind sales counters (78%).
Since the 1989 enactment of a comprehensive youth access ordinance in Woodridge, Illinois,
teen smoking rates have dropped to half that of their cohorts around the country.