HOUSTON - (Mar. 12, 2012 ) –United States Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, M.D., accelerated the fight against youth tobacco use with the release of the Surgeon General’s Report, Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults. Faculty at The University of Texas School of Public Health, a part of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), took lead roles in developing the report.
The report details the scope, health consequences and influences that lead to youth tobacco use, as well as proven strategies that prevent its use. Cheryl Perry, Ph.D., professor and regional dean of the UT School of Public Health Austin Regional Campus, served as senior scientific editor and lead author of the report. The report also provides further scientific evidence on the addictive nature of nicotine.
“The major focus of our research for the past four years has been the Surgeon General’s Report on the prevention of youth and young adult tobacco use,” said Perry. “We hope it will serve as a scientific foundation for action to keep young people tobacco free.”
Melissa Stigler, Ph.D., assistant professor at the UT School of Public Health, was senior associate editor of the report. Doctoral students MeLisa Creamer and Emily Neusel were listed as contributors.
“Dr. Stigler wrote a ground-breaking chapter on the epidemiology of tobacco use and our doctoral students worked tirelessly as they kept our edits and research organized,” said Perry. “We all worked together, even on weekends, to respond to queries, concerns and emerging research.”
Perry and Stigler are also faculty with the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Health Living at UTHealth.
Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable and premature death and kills more than 1,200 Americans every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For every tobacco-related death, two new young people under the age of 26 become regular smokers. Nearly 90 percent of these replacement smokers try their first cigarette by age 18. Approximately three of four high school smokers continue to smoke well into adulthood.
While the long-term health effects of tobacco use are well known, the 920-page report concludes that smoking early in life has substantial health risks that begin immediately in young smokers. These include serious early cardiovascular damage and a reduction of lung functionality. This lung damage is permanent, causes shortness of breath immediately and increases the risk of pulmonary diseases later in life.
“The addictive power of nicotine makes tobacco use much more than a passing phase for most teens,” said Benjamin. “We now know smoking causes immediate physical damage, some of which is permanent.
According to the report, more than 600,000 middle school students and 3 million high school students smoke cigarettes.“In addition to cigarette smoking, the use of other tobacco products, such as smokeless tobacco and cigars, among young people is common and needs to be addressed,” said Stigler. “Among tobacco users in high school, more than 50 percent of white males and Hispanic males and almost 50 percent of Hispanic females report use of multiple tobacco products.”
The younger individuals are when they start using tobacco, the more likely they are to become addicted and the more heavily addicted they will become, according to the report. “We don’t want our children to start something now that they won’t be able to change later in life,” Benjamin said.
Perry said targeted marketing and messages of tobacco products average over $27 million a day and $29 million a day is spent for all tobacco use in the United States.
“Targeted marketing encourages more young people to take up this deadly addiction every day,” said Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). “The current administration is committed to doing everything we can to prevent our children from using tobacco.”
“We can and must continue to do more to accelerate the decline in youth tobacco use,” said Howard Koh, M.D., M.P.H., assistant secretary for health at HHS. “Until we end the tobacco epidemic, more young people will become addicted, more people will die, and more families will be devastated by the suffering and loss of loved ones.”
To help communicate the report findings and steps every American can take to join the fight against youth tobacco use, the surgeon general unveiled a guide with practical, research-based information on addressing tobacco use in young people, Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: We Can Make the Next Generation Tobacco-Free. In addition, the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health will launch the Surgeon General’s Video Challenge to engage youth and young adults in developing original videos that feature one or more of the report’s findings. More information can be found at www.Challenge.gov.
Copies of the full Report, executive summary, and the easy-to-read guide may be downloaded at http://www.surgeongeneral.gov. To order printed copies of these documents go to http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco and click on the Publications Catalog link under Tools & Resources.
- Additional writing by Shon Bower, Sr. Communications Specialist at the UT School of Public Health and the CDC's Office of Smoking and Health
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