Sep. 18 2002
Washington, DC — Data released today by the American Legacy Foundation demonstrates once again that investing in proven tobacco prevention measures like the truthsm campaign is effective in reducing youth smoking. This new report, based on a survey of 69 middle and high schools in 27 states, is terrific news for the nation's health. It is powerful evidence that tobacco prevention and control measures long advocated by the public health community, including comprehensive prevention programs, advertising campaigns such as the truthsm campaign, increased cigarette taxes and smoke-free environments, are working to reduce the terrible toll of tobacco in the United States. These measures are the equivalent of a vaccine that is working to protect our kids from the addiction, disease and death caused by tobacco use. Now that we know this vaccine works, it is even more important that elected officials in every state fund comprehensive prevention programs, increase cigarette taxes and adopt smoke-free environments to ensure that we protect every child in every generation. It would be irresponsible to do otherwise and leave our children unprotected.
States that are not currently implementing these measures should act quickly to do so, and states that have done the right thing should redouble their efforts rather than cutting them back, as some have proposed during the current difficult budget environment. We have evidence from states such as Florida and California that cutbacks in tobacco prevention can quickly stall and even reverse progress in reducing youth smoking.
The good news from this survey must also be tempered. Tobacco use is still a pediatric epidemic. Nearly one in four high school students still smoke, and 2,000 kids will become daily, addicted smokers today, one-third of whom will die prematurely as a result. Smoking-caused disease will kill more than 400,000 Americans this year and cost more than $150 billion in health care expenses and productivity losses, according to a recent CDC report. Rather than declaring victory, we must redouble our efforts and commit to taking the steps needed to achieve and exceed the 2010 national health objective of reducing high school smoking to 16 percent or less.
While today's study shows once again that programs like Legacy's truthsm campaign can help inoculate our children from smoking, there is a counter-force that is very well funded. Tobacco companies continue to market their deadly products in ways effective at attracting kids, spending more than $9.6 billion a year on marketing – that's $26 million a day (numbers from most recent Federal Trade Commission report on tobacco industry marketing). While the industry keeps up this marketing barrage, it is vitally important that tobacco prevention programs and policies receive broad support.