No smoking message fails with teens
According to a recently released survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, unless more aggressive action is taken on a federal level, to prevent kids from smoking and curb tobacco marketing, little progress will be made in reducing youth smoking rat
It seems that while youth smoking rates declined significantly since peaking in the mid-1990s, over the past two years progress has slowed almost to a stall.
Over the last year, according to the 2005 Monitoring the Future survey, no statistically significant change was seen in smoking rates among eighth, tenth or twelfth graders.
The lack of decline among eighth graders is especially troubling because, as the University of Michigan researchers who conducted the survey note, eighth graders have been the predictors of smoking trends among teens.
Youth smoking rates remain unacceptably high with more than 23 percent of high school seniors still lighting up.
This lack of progress is of concern and appears to be a direct result of states cutting funding for tobacco prevention programs by more than a quarter since 2002, while at the same time tobacco companies have increased their marketing to record levels.
The new survey is a wakeup call that progress in reducing youth smoking must not be taken for granted.
The survey calls for a doubling of efforts to reduce tobacco use, including tobacco tax increases, increased funding for programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, and smoke-free workplaces and public places.
In addition, it calls for Congress to pass legislation granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority over tobacco products, including the authority to crack down on marketing that impacts on children.
It would be seen as a positive move if the Justice Department stood firm against tobacco companies, as it has great potential to stop price discounts and other forms of marketing that impact kids.
Possibly even more of a worry is that the survey found a leveling off in the perceived risk and disapproval of smoking among some grades and a small, although not statistically significant, increase in smokeless tobacco use among tenth and twelfth graders from 2004 to 2005.
The tobacco companies are apparently spending record amounts in marketing their products, at least $28 to market tobacco products for every $1 states spend on tobacco prevention.
The companies have shifted the bulk of their marketing to price discounts, which have their greatest impact on youth and undermine state efforts to reduce youth smoking by increasing tobacco taxes.
The survey points out that historically it is known what must be done but the political will to aggressively implement these proven solutions is missing.
Despite the progress of recent years, elected officials at all levels will need to redouble tobacco prevention efforts.
Because tobacco use remains the nation's number one preventable cause of death, killing more than 400,000 people and costing the nation more than $180 billion in health care bills and lost productivity every year, tobacco companies must be held accountable for their marketing practices that addict children and result in disease and death.
Elected officials are equally culpable if they fail to implement the solutions known to work to prevent children from smoking.
More information on the Monitoring the Future Survey can be found at http://www.monitoringthefuture.org.