TEEN SMOKING: CDC Reports Big Rise For 1997
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new survey yesterday that found 40% of high school students "regularly use some kind of tobacco," the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. According to data collected in the 1997 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, cigarette smoking among high school students grew "by one-third over just six years." While 27.5% of all high school students smoked in 1991, the percentage grew to 36.4% in 1997. "These numbers are alarming and surprising -- and depressing," said Dr. Michael Eriksen, head of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health (McKenna, 4/3). Reacting to the findings, Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala said, "We're losing ground in the battle to protect our children. There is no excuse for delay. Congress must act promptly to enact comprehensive tobacco control legislation to protect our children" (HHS release, 4/2).
According to the survey, "5.5 million of the 15 million U.S. high school-age teens are smokers" -- a "higher rate of smoking than among adults." The Journal-Constitution reports that "though whites remain the heaviest users, smoking by black students has almost doubled, a particularly troubling finding given black teens' long-time resistance to smoking's heavily advertised allure." Growth in smoking among African-American teens grew the fastest over six years (80%), "but the rate increased for every group: a 28% increase for whites" and a "34% rise for Hispanics." The survey found that 47% of white teens smoke, while 37% of Hispanic and 29% of black teens smoke. And while girls "smoked more than boys during the 1980s ... both sexes now smoke to almost the same degree" (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4/3). The report found that nearly 12% of California teens reported smoking in 1996 (Sacramento Bee, 4/3). In addition, the popularity of cigars is growing among teens. About one in five students (22%) had used cigars in the past month -- about three in 10 males students (31.2%) and about one in ten female students (10.8%) (HHS release, 4/2). To view a pdf version of the CDC survey, published in today's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, click here. Copies of the survey can also be obtained by sending an e-mail to email@example.com.
Dr. Stanton Glantz, a leading anti-tobacco researcher at the University of California-San Francisco, "contends that the political talk about curbing youth smoking has created a forbidden-fruit effect." He said, "People in Washington thought it was politically expedient to focus on the youth smoking issue, but by doing it they ended up reinforcing the tobacco industry's message that if you want to look grown-up, smoke" (Stolberg, New York Times, 4/3). Eriksen said, "Three thousand a day become regular smokers, and 1,000 of them will ultimately die a painful and premature death as a result of this adolescent decision." ABC News' Rebecca Chase reported, "An adolescent decision, says the report, based on emotion, not logic" ("World News Tonight," 4/2).
Call To Arms
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), "one of Capitol Hill's leading tobacco foes, said he believe the study will provide additional motivation for lawmakers to draft a strong tobacco bill." He said, "I'm optimistic we'll get legislation, since there is a great deal of public concern about the tobacco companies going after our kids. What worries me is that we've got to be sure the law is a strong one that changes the way the tobacco companies do business" (Cimons, Los Angeles Times, 4/3).