Almost all smokers get addicted to cigarettes very young, according to The Health Consequences of Smoking, published last month by the US Surgeon General. Nearly 90 percent of smokers start before 18 and 98 percent by 26; three-quarters of all teen smokers become adult smokers.
If current trends in smoking and smoking initiation stay the same, smoking-related illness will kill about 5.6 million children alive today.
The Surgeon General recommends several effective programs and policies that have helped to decrease tobacco initiation and use, including:
- raising the price of cigarettes;
- developing smoke-free environments;
- producing high-impact media campaigns;
- providing full access to cessation treatments; and
- funding tobacco control programs at the levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Movies, television, video games and advertising promote tobacco with appealing depictions of cigarette smoking. The CDC and state governments fund ads to counteract such misleading images, but these campaigns usually address adults.
On the other hand, a new anti-smoking campaign from US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) specifically targets at-risk youth. Messages that resonate with adolescents–such as the cosmetic consequences of smoking and the loss of control from nicotine addiction—give the anti-smoking campaign a better chance of reaching young people. The FDA will monitor the ads to evaluate their effectiveness.
Let’s hope that this anti-smoking campaign helps more teens make the good decision not to pick up cigarettes, and brings the US closer to a society free from tobacco-related death and disease.