TEEN SMOKING: Link Between Joe Camel And More Use
The number of teenagers who became regular smokers rose 73% between 1988 and 1996, from 708,000 in 1988 to 1.2 million in 1996, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Not only did more teenagers start smoking during that time -- an average of 3,000 teenagers started each day -- but teens also started trying cigarettes at an earlier age. The CDC surveyed nearly 80,000 Americans, asking them how old they were when they first smoked a cigarette and how old they were when smoking became a daily habit. Looking at smoking trends between 1965 and 1996, the CDC found that rates of first use fell from 1974 to 1987, and then rose from 1988 to 1995. Overall, the study found that "public health gains observed during the 1970s and 1980s are being reversed." If trends continue, the CDC says, approximately 5 million teenagers "will die eventually from a smoking-attributable disease" (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 10/9 issue).
Blame It On Joe
The AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports that CDC officials said the huge increase of teen smoking starting in 1988 coincided with "Joe Camel's debut." CDC chief epidemiologist Gary Giovino said, "It's terrible news. There's a lot of important things to consider, which include the increase in tobacco ads that have a youth focus. After Joe Camel was introduced, then the promotional-type strategies kicked in." He added that a "lot of parents weren't aware of Camel cash and that stuff, but kids were." But Jan Smith, spokesperson for R.J. Reynolds, which manufacturers the Camel brand, said, "It just doesn't make sense to say Joe Camel fueled youth smoking. We have long said that campaign was aimed at adult smokers, period" (Bynum, 10/9).
Minorities And Smoking
The CDC also released a Surgeon General study on tobacco use among minorities in the U.S. The study found that "African Americans currently bear the greatest health burden" of smoking-related illnesses, but Native Americans "have the highest prevalence of tobacco use." Asian American and Hispanic women have the lowest rate of tobacco use among the four groups studied. Teen smoking during the '90s increased among African Americans and Hispanics. The report concludes that there's no single cause for these patterns, but that they are "the result of complex interactions of multiple factors." As a result, "[r]igorous surveillance and prevention research are needed on the changing cultural, psychosocial and environmental factors" that affect tobacco use among minorities. The report notes that the four groups comprise about 25% of the U.S. population today, but that the Census Bureau projects that by 2050 they will make up nearly 47% of the American population (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 10/9 issue).