Jun. 28 2000
Washington, DC — The long-term success of the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program is conclusive evidence that an aggressive, comprehensive tobacco prevention program can make a real and sustained difference in successfully keeping children from tobacco addiction. The most dramatic data, released today, show a 70 percent drop between 1993-1999 in cigarette use by Massachusetts 6th graders. New research by Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas-Houston School of Public Health shows that the peak risk period for children to become smokers is in the 6th grade. Today's announcement also shows corresponding declines in the same time period for 8th graders (40 percent) and 10th graders (27 percent). These declines in youth prevalence are the biggest in Massachusetts' history and are well ahead of the rest of the U.S. As a result, tens of thousands of Massachusetts kids are being protected from the diseases and premature death caused by tobacco. As these children reach adulthood and are non-smokers, the benefits in increased life span and state health-care savings will be enormous.
Massachusetts' results, along with those from Florida, California and Oregon, add to the growing body of evidence that well funded and sustained comprehensive state prevention programs, including aggressive counter-advertising and community-based programs, reduce youth tobacco use. The Massachusetts data leave no excuse for state legislatures still debating this issue not to invest tobacco settlement dollars in comprehensive tobacco prevention programs. The states need to move forward with effective programs that learn from Massachusetts' long-term success, and the tobacco companies, if they are serious about youth tobacco prevention, need to support these efforts.