It’s being called a pediatric epidemic. The first Surgeon General’s report on youth tobacco use since 1994 shows some shocking numbers.
Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable and premature deaths in the country. Yet, one in four high school seniors and one in three young adults under 26 years old are using it.
Robert Kaslovsky, Director of Pediatrics at Baystate Medical Center, says “That’s a lot higher than I would have expected. You see lots of teens and young adults who smoke but one in three is very high.”
Tobacco use by young adults had dropping every year from 1997 to 2003, but since then have stayed the same.
Calvin Brownridge says “I think it’s a problem in pretty much any area. I think there’s a lot of peer pressure for teens. They see their friends doing something so they think it’s cool.”
Thinking it’s cool is only one of the reasons young people start to use tobacco.
“Television, fads…it’s just a social thing,” says Antron Godridge.
Several U.S. Senators signed a letter protesting a court ruling that found graphic warning labels on cigarette cartons to be unconstitutional, but would images do any good?
Ron Schulz says, “People who smoke who are addicted to smoke, they’re going to smoke, but for people who are casual users, it might deter some.”
Doctors say preventing people from smoking is not easy. Responsibility lies heavily on parents.
“Education from young ages and the parents have to set the example for kids,” says Kaslovsky.
The report did reveal some good news. Those who didn’t start smoke by age 18 are likely to never start.
That report also suggested that early tobacco use later could lead to the use of marijuana.