Decades after the establishment of the health risks of smoking, more than 3.6 million kids in the US are smoke cigarettes, according to the Surgeon General’s Report, Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults released today (March 8, 2012). 

The Surgeon General report is one of a group of new resources that the Obama Administration released March 8, 2012 as part of its effort to combat the health risks of smoking amount youth. 

According to the Surgeon General, tobacco is the leading cause of preventable and premature death, killing more than 1,200 Americans every day.  For every tobacco-related death two new young people under the age of 26 become regular smokers.  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.  Accordingly, government and community health leaders view preventing young people from smoking as a key component to minimizing these health risks. 

In furtherance of efforts to reduce smoking related health risks, the Surgeon General has develped several new resources intended to recruit Americans to join the fight against tobacco use.  These include:

  • The Report, which details the scope, health consequences and influences that lead to youth tobacco use and proven strategies that prevent its use; and
  • A guide with practical information on addressing tobacco use in young people, Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: We Can Make the Next Generation Tobacco-Free , intended to help communicate the report findings and steps every American can take to join the fight against youth tobacco use.

In addition to these new Surgeon General resources, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office on Smoking and Health will launch the Surgeon General’s Video Challenge to engage youth and young adults in developing original videos that feature one or more of the report’s findings. More information can be found at http://www.Challenge.gov.

The Surgeon General’s report provides further scientific evidence on the addictive nature of nicotine.  The younger individuals are when they start using tobacco, the more likely they are to become addicted and the more heavily addicted they will become.

“The addictive power of nicotine makes tobacco use much more than a passing phase for most teens. We now know smoking causes immediate physical damage, some of which is permanent,” said Dr. Benjamin. “Today, more than 600,000 middle school students and 3 million high school students smoke. We don’t want our children to start something now that they won’t be able to change later in life.”

While the long-term health effects of tobacco use are well-known, this report concludes that smoking early in life has substantial health risks that begin immediately in young smokers.  These include serious early cardiovascular damage and a reduction of lung functionality.  This lung damage is permanent, causes shortness of breath immediately and increases the risk of pulmonary diseases later in life.

Expenditures for marketing and promotion of tobacco products exceed $1 million an hour – over $27 million a day – in the United States alone. Targeted messages and images that portray smoking as an acceptable, appealing activity for young people are widespread, and advertising for tobacco products is prominent in retail stores and online.  

“We can and must continue to do more to accelerate the decline in youth tobacco use,” said Dr. Howard Koh, assistant secretary for health at HHS, “Until we end the tobacco epidemic, more young people will become addicted, more people will die, and more families will be devastated by the suffering and loss of loved ones.”

Copies of the full Report, executive summary, and the easy-to-read guide may be downloaded at http://www.surgeongeneral.gov. To order printed copies of these documents go to http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco and click on the Publications Catalog link under Tools & Resources. For access to quitting resources visit www.smokefree.gov.

About Project COPE: The Coalition On Patient Empowerment & Its  Coalition on Responsible Health Policy

Sharing and promoting the use of practical practices, tools, information and ideas that patients and their families, health care providers, employers, health plans, communities and policymakers can share and offer to help patients, their families and others in their care communities to understand and work together to better help the patients, their family and their professional and private care community plan for and manage these  needs is the purpose of Project COPE

The best opportunity to improve access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans is for every American, and every employer, insurer, and community organization to seize the opportunity to be good Samaritans.  The government, health care providers, insurers and community organizations can help by providing education and resources to make understanding and dealing with the realities of illness, disability or aging easier for a patient and their family, the affected employers and others. At the end of the day, however, caring for people requires the human touch.  Americans can best improve health care by not waiting for someone else to step up:  Speak up, step up and help bridge the gap when you or your organization can do so by extending yourself a little bit.  Speak up to help communicate and help when you can.  Building health care neighborhoods filled with good neighbors throughout the community is the key.

The outcome of this latest health care reform push is only a small part of a continuing process.  Whether or not the Affordable Care Act makes financing care better or worse, the same challenges exist.  The real meaning of the enacted reforms will be determined largely by the shaping and implementation of regulations and enforcement actions which generally happen outside the public eye.  Americans individually and collectively clearly should watch and continue to provide input through this critical time to help shape constructive rather than obstructive policy. Regardless of how the policy ultimately evolves, however, Americans, American businesses, and American communities still will need to roll up their sleeves and work to deal with the realities of dealing with ill, aging and disabled people and their families.  While the reimbursement and coverage map will change and new government mandates will confine providers, payers and patients, the practical needs and challenges of patients and families will be the same and confusion about the new configuration will create new challenges as patients, providers and payers work through the changes.

We also encourage you and others to help develop real meaningful improvements by joining Project COPE: Coalition for Patient Empowerment here by sharing ideas, tools and other solutions and other resources. The Coalition For Responsible Health Care Policy provides a resource that concerned Americans can use to share, monitor and discuss the Health Care Reform law and other health care, insurance and related laws, regulations, policies and practices and options for promoting access to quality, affordable healthcare through the design, administration and enforcement of these regulations.

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.   If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in one or more of the following other recent articles published on the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform electronic publication available here, our electronic Solutions Law Press Health Care Update publication available here, or our HR & Benefits Update electronic publication available here .  You also can access information about how you can arrange for training on “Building Your Family’s Health Care Toolkit,”  using the “PlayForLife” resources to organize low cost wellness programs in your workplace, school, church or other communities, and other process improvement, compliance and other training and other resources for health care providers, employers, health plans, community leaders and others here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail by creating or updating your profile here. You can access other recent updates and other informative publications and resources.

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