Report: State must do more to curb youth smoking

| 12 Jun 2012 | 04:25

    BRIDGEVILLE — The U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin has released a new report on tobacco use, Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults, and its message is clear: the failure of states to adequately invest in tobacco control has resulted in three million new youth and young adult smokers, a third of whom will ultimately die from their addiction.

    The report also asserts that we could cut youth tobacco use in half in just six years – but only if states put in place policies and programs proven to reduce tobacco use. Read more.

    So what is New Jersey doing to curb tobacco use, particularly among young people? Sadly, not enough.

    In January, the Lung Association released its annual State of Tobacco Control report, which found that virtually every state is failing to fund tobacco control programs at levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). New Jersey is no exception; it earned an “F” in Tobacco Prevention and Control Spending and Cessation Coverage. Tobacco use continues to reap a devastating toll in the Garden State. Annually, there are an estimated 11,201 smoking attributable deaths in the state. In addition to the death toll, tobacco use costs the state’s economy nearly $5.6 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity.

    Why is it so important to reduce tobacco use by young people? Because starting to use tobacco as a kid will lead to damage to their health that is permanent and severe. This 31st Surgeon General’s Report finds that the health of young adults can be affected much earlier than previously reported. When young people smoke, they cause early and permanent damage to their lungs – stunting the growth of their lungs and increasing their risk for developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the third leading cause of death in the US. Tobacco use also causes heart disease and lung cancer, the leading cause of death among all types of cancer.

    According to the report, more than 600,000 middle school and three million high school students smoke, nationwide. In New Jersey, the high school smoking rate is 14.3 percent. We could reduce this number and protect the health and future of more of our kids, if New Jersey invested enough in comprehensive prevention and cessation programs.

    “It’s ironic that many states blame tight budgets to justify cutting back on tobacco prevention programs, when these same programs actually save states money,” said Deb Brown, president and CEO of the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic.

    You can help There are a number of ways you can get involved in the fight against tobacco use, including joining the Lung Action Network, or by making a donation to further their fight for healthy lungs. Contact the American Lung Association in New Jersey at 908-685-8040 for more information.

    Need help quitting? The American Lung Association has been successfully helping smokers quit for more than 30 years with its Freedom From Smoking program, which provides a personalized step-by-step quit plan and is available as a face-to-face program or online ( The Lung Association offers the N-O-T (Not On Tobacco) program, designed to help teens quit smoking while addressing other related teen stressors. For assistance with quitting smoking or for additional questions about lung health, call the American Lung Association’s Lung HelpLine at 1-800-548-8252.