WASHINGTON (UPI) — Nearly 25 percent of U.S. high school seniors and one-third of young adults 26 and under smoke despite 50 years of warnings, the U.S. surgeon general said.
“The numbers are really shocking — it’s a problem we have to solve,” Dr. Regina Benjamin, the surgeon general said in an interview with USA Today.
Adolescents, because their bodies are developing, are more at risk than adults to nicotine’s addictiveness and tobacco’s damage to the body, Benjamin said.
A report by the surgeon general found the dramatic decrease in smoking from 1997 to 2003, slowed in percent years and more high school students are using smokeless tobacco and at least half of white and Hispanic male tobacco users and nearly half of Hispanic female users smoke and chew tobacco.
Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable and premature death, killing more than 1,200 Americans every day, the report said.
“For every tobacco-related death two new young people under the age of 26 become regular smokers,” the report said. “Nearly 90 percent of these replacement smokers try their first cigarette by age 18. Approximately
3-out-of-4 high school smokers continue to smoke well into adulthood.”
The report said the tobacco industry’s $10 billion in annual marketing — including promotions that cut prices — encourages youth to begin tobacco use.