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The Basics of Youth Tobacco Prevention

The Basics of Youth Tobacco Prevention

Use of tobacco products is a major contributing factor to the development of lung, bronchus, and oral cancers, and a known contributing factor to others like breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers. In fact, smoking is responsible for 9 out of 10 lung cancer deaths and 3 out of 10 total cancer deaths. 

It’s also a major contributing factor to the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) like emphysema, causing 8 out of 10 cases. In addition, 3 out of 10 deaths from heart disease are attributed to smoking. 

Preventing our youth from smoking tobacco products like cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, and cigars, as well as using other forms like dipping and chewing tobacco, is so important to cancer prevention initiatives, as well as their general long-term health. 

General Tobacco Statistics 

  • Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the US and around the world
  • In the 20th century, tobacco use is estimated to have killed 100 million people globally
  • Annually, tobacco use kills about 480,000 people in the US and 6 million people worldwide
  • Put another way, tobacco use kills 1 person every 6 seconds, or 14,000 people per day
  • About 50,000 of those annual US deaths are due to secondhand smoke exposure
  • Tobacco use is responsible for an estimated $170 billion in annual US healthcare expenses
  • It’s also estimated to result in $150 billion worth of lost productivity 

Youth Tobacco Stats 

  • Almost 9 out of 10 smokers started before the age of 18
  • Today in America, more than 600,000 children in middle school and 3 million teens in high school smoke cigarettes
  • The overwhelming majority of tobacco users who die began in their youth
  • On average, 580 minors become regular smokers every day in the US
  • The worldwide average is 100,000 new youth smokers daily
  • 1 in 3 of those children will die due to their smoking habit
  • At current rates, 5.6 million American kids and 250 million globally who are alive right now will die from a smoking-related disease 

Some Youth Tobacco Prevention Efforts 

Many strategies help reduce smoking among our nation’s children. Some of these include: 

  • Laws setting a minimum age for purchasing tobacco products
  • Laws for checking identification to confirm age at the point of purchase
  • Laws prohibiting tobacco ads and marketing campaigns aimed at minors
  • Initiatives like the We Card program
  • Increasing the cost of tobacco products through taxation
  • Tobacco education in schools
  • Parental education efforts about discouraging, identifying, and addressing tobacco use
  • Advertising the negative social and health effects of tobacco use
  • Anti-smoking ads and marketing campaigns specifically targeting children
  • Diversified mass media marketing campaigns aimed at reducing youth smoking
  • Repeated, ongoing anti-tobacco messaging through childhood and the teen years
  • Smoke-free laws at schools and in public places 

We’re Making Progress 

The statistics about tobacco use among America’s young people and general population are disturbing. Despite that, the country has made considerable progress in both adult and youth tobacco prevention. 

  • In 1965, 42.4% of adults in the US were regular smokers; that fell to 15.1% in 2015
  • In 1997, 36.4% of US high schoolers were smokers; that declined to 10.8% in 2015
  • When surveyed in 2011, 4.3% of middle schoolers said they’d smoked a cigarette in the past 30 days; that dropped to 2.3% in 2015 

There’s Still Work to Do 

While overall trends show promising decline in youth and adult tobacco use, it’s clearly still a public health crisis and serious issue in the fight against cancer. Also, certain types of tobacco use, like smoking e-cigarettes and hookahs, are on the rise among kids in the US. These trends threaten to undermine the progress we’ve made in reducing tobacco use among our children.


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