Dec. 14 2000
Washington, DC — The Monitoring the Future survey released today shows that, after increasing dramatically for much of the past decade, youth smoking rates in the United States have begun to decline significantly. This is very good news for our nation's public health. These results show that aggressive public health measures, including recent cigarette price increases and comprehensive state tobacco prevention programs, are working to protect our kids from tobacco addiction and premature death from tobacco-related disease.
If the gains shown in the survey are to be sustained and broadened, all the states must seize the opportunity afforded by the $246 billion tobacco settlement to fund and implement comprehensive tobacco prevention programs. The few states that have implemented such programs, such as California, Florida and Massachusetts, have achieved significant successes. We also need a national tobacco control policy that includes granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority over all aspects of tobacco manufacturing, marketing and sales.
Today's survey shows an "encouraging ongoing decline" in smoking rates for 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, with current smoking rates for 8th graders falling to the lowest levels since 1991, the first year in which 8th graders were surveyed. The survey also shows that young people at all three grade levels have a higher perception of the risks of smoking than they have in past years and all three grade levels express a higher degree of disapproval of smoking. While this news is hopeful, youth smoking rates in the United States remain much too high. Current smoking rates among 10th and 12th graders remain higher than in 1991, and almost a third of high school students graduate as smokers.
Every year, another generation of kids reaches the primary age of vulnerability to the lure of tobacco addiction. It is imperative that existing state tobacco prevention programs be sustained with proper funding and that states that have not yet implemented tobacco prevention do so without delay. Unless we are willing to commit the resources necessary to sustain the declines shown in the survey, youth smoking rates will eventually rise again. We can't let that happen.