Senators: Surgeon General's Report on Youth Smoking Epidemic A Call to Action for State and the Federal Government

After years of steady progress, declines in tobacco use among youth have slowed for cigarette smoking and stalled for smokeless tobacco

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said today that a report released by the Surgeon General on tobacco use among youth and young adults is a nationwide call to action for states and the federal government to sustain and even strengthen current effective tobacco control strategies. 


“This scientific report - which focuses not just on cigarettes but on all tobacco products, including flavored cigars and other youth-targeted tobacco products - provides conclusive evidence that tobacco use among our kids is on the rise,” said Durbin. “Our nation’s young people continue to be targeted by the tobacco companies and we need to actively prevent it. Curbing tobacco use by our kids is an achievable goal and with the right commitment we can spare future generations of young people from this deadly epidemic.”


“The Surgeon General's report makes clear the urgency of preventing another generation from getting hooked on tobacco,” said Lautenberg.  “We must ensure that new standards are implemented, including graphic cigarette labels that tell the deadly truth about smoking. Big Tobacco companies target our kids and we must continue to fight their efforts to attract a next generation of tobacco users.”


“This report joins the chorus of voices in the scientific community confirming the devastating impacts that tobacco use by young Americans have on their health, their families, and their communities,” said Harkin.  “The good news is that we can turn this disturbing trend around, and today’s report identifies effective strategies that can dramatically reduce tobacco use.  Many of these strategies were included in the historic Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gives the US Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco products and tobacco advertising. Fully implementing these provisions will be a big step toward discouraging our young people from using tobacco products in the first place, thus reducing the significant impact of tobacco products on public health.”


“This far-reaching, hard-hitting report shows that the battle against tobacco addiction and disease is far from over. Targeted marketing campaigns aimed at children lure them into a lifetime of nicotine addiction and costly, lethal decisions. Other practices, like the use of flavors, menthol and deceptive pitches for safer tobacco use, seek to keep people hooked. With over 1,000 deaths each day from tobacco-related illness, we must redouble the fight to reduce youth tobacco use. I look forward to continuing to work to ensure that young people in Connecticut and across the country stay healthy and tobacco-free,” said Blumenthal.


Every year, tobacco use kills 443,000 Americans, most of whom started using tobacco as teenagers. Although significant progress has been made to reduce tobacco use among adolescents and young adults since the first Surgeon General’s report in 1964, nearly one in four high school seniors and one in three young adults under 26 still smoke. In addition, one out of every three young smokers will die from tobacco-related causes.


The Surgeon General’s Report released today includes a discussion of the cognitive and genetic factors that make adolescents and young adults particularly vulnerable to the pressures of smoking and smoking behavior. The report also contains a review of the early and long-term health effects of tobacco use, which include reduced lung growth and function, increased risk of heart and lung disease, and premature death. A copy of the report can be found here.


The report examines the social, environmental, and marketing influences that encourage youth to begin smoking. It contains empirical data and industry documents that indicate that the tobacco industry has and continues to focus on young adult populations through targeted advertising campaigns and promotions. Last year, Durbin, Lautenberg and Blumenthal were joined by U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) in sending a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration asking it to ban flavored cigars, which have recently become increasingly popular among adolescents.


Citing the influence of Major League Baseball (MLB) players on children and young adults, Durbin, Lautenberg, Harkin and Blumenthal called on the MLB Players Association to ban the use of all tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco, on the field, in the dugout, and in the locker rooms at MLB venues. Under a new collective bargaining agreement set to take effect at the beginning of the 2012 season, players, managers, and coaches will be prohibited from using smokeless tobacco during televised interviews and Club appearances and, when fans are permitted in the ballpark, they must conceal tobacco products and may not carry tobacco products in their uniforms or on their bodies at any time.