(Salt Lake City) – A new U.S. Surgeon General’s report says 3.6 million middle and high school students smoke, and urges states to discourage youth smoking through high- impact interventions, including tobacco tax hikes, smoking bans, and mass media campaigns
“Basically, the report says that the efforts Utah lawmakers and anti-tobacco advocates have made over the years are working, and should be a model for the nation,” said Utah Department of Health (UDOH) executive director Dr. David Patton.
The Utah Legislature approved a $1 per pack tax hike in 2010, and in recent years has also passed comprehensive tobacco control laws and funded effective programs statewide to keep tobacco products out of the hands of Utah youth. The measures have helped bring the teen smoking rate to 5.9%, down from the 1999 rate of nearly 12%. Nationally, 19.5% of teens smoke cigarettes.
“Studies show that when cigarettes get more expensive, teens stop buying them,” said Amy Sands, UDOH Tobacco Prevention and Control Program manager. “We can thank lawmakers, as well as the efforts of our local health departments, educators, and parents for protecting the current and future health of our young people.”
Over the last decade, illegal tobacco sales to underage youth during compliance checks declined by 64%. At 5.7%, the rate of non-compliance is at its lowest recorded level. The 2010 tax hike also brought per capita sales of cigarettes down from 26.7 packs to 22.3 packs in 2011, the largest one-year decline since 1997.
While strides have been made in fighting tobacco addiction, more remains to be done:
• More than 200,000 youth and adults in Utah continue to smoke.
• The tobacco industry spends $60 million annually in Utah recruiting replacement smokers for the 1,150 who die from tobacco addiction.
• For every tobacco-related death, at least two youths or young adults become new regular smokers, and nearly 90 percent of these “replacement smokers” try their first cigarette by age 18.
• Cigarette smoking immediately and permanently harms the health of kids and young adults. Smoking quickly causes nicotine addiction, cardiovascular damage, and slows lung growth.
“We have every intention to continue our vigilance in protecting our children and addressing this leading cause of preventable death in Utah,” says Sands. “Working together to implement the findings of this report we can further benefit the youth and young adults of Utah.”
For more information or help quitting tobacco visit http://www.tobaccofreeutah.org/.
To see the Surgeon General’s report go to http://www.cdc.gov/Features/YouthTobaccoUse/.
Health Program Specialist