Dec. 17 1999
Washington, DC - While any decline in youth tobacco use is good news, the new Monitoring the Future survey data indicate that any progress will be incremental and uneven unless we put in place comprehensive tobacco prevention programs and policies that limit tobacco industry marketing to children. To achieve more substantial and lasting gains, it is critical that state legislatures allocate a significant portion of the funds they receive from the multi-state settlement to comprehensive programs to discourage tobacco use. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration must be allowed to move forward with its efforts to place meaningful restrictions on tobacco manufacturers’ advertising and marketing to children, whether through a ruling of the Supreme Court or an act of Congress.
Despite the modest improvements noted in the report, youth tobacco use remains a pediatric epidemic. Smoking rates among 12th graders are still historically high, and more than one-third of young people are active smokers by the time they leave high school. The improvements among eight and tenth graders are slightly more substantial and encouraging, but they only begin to reverse the steady increases in smoking rates from 1991 to 1998. These declines will only be meaningful if tobacco use is prevented, not just delayed until the high school years.
The real good news this year is that we have more evidence than ever that comprehensive state tobacco prevention programs work. In Florida, which implemented its Tobacco Pilot Program in 1998, smoking was reduced by 19 percent (3.5 percentage points) among middle school students and 8 percent (2.2 percentage points) among high school students in just one year. Comprehensive programs in Massachusetts, California, and Oregon also have succeeded in reducing tobacco use.
We know what works. It is imperative that governors and legislators across this country fund and implement comprehensive tobacco prevention programs so we can achieve deep and sustained reductions in youth tobacco use nationwide.