Despite the detrimental effects of cigarettes on America’s youth, tobacco companies remain intent on growing the next crop of addicted users, according to a new report from the U.S. Surgeon General.

The report, “Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults,” presents an in-depth look at the large number of children and teens turning to cigarettes every year.

“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,” Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin said in a statement. “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.”

The new study found that cigarette companies are still targeting minors as customers with “intentional marketing of tobacco products to youth as being a cause of young people’s tobacco use.”

Tobacco companies are working in tandem with convenience stores to have their products pushed in bright packaging with cheap prices, and place in the front of displays and even next to candy, according to the report, all in an effort to draw in adolescent customers.

Information compiled by the Federal Trade Commission shows that the tobacco industry spends almost $29 million each day, or $10.5 billion per year, to promote cigarette smoking.

Programs intended to help those hooked to kick the habit have been helped along by the Obama administration. In 2009, President Obama gave the Food and Drug Administration power to regulate all tobacco products with the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.

Smokers have also seen tactics such as a 61-cent hike in the federal cigarette tax to deter new and long-term smokers from buying their next pack. However, even with support on the federal level, funds to curb cigarette smoking among children and adults have fallen to record lows.

While the Centers for Disease Control reports that 443,000 people in the U.S. die from tobacco products annually, in the last four years alone cessation and prevention program monies have been cut by 36 percent, or $260.5 million.
Tobacco use is at the top of the list for preventable deaths, killing more people than HIV, car accidents, suicides and the use of illegal drugs combined.

For more facts on cigarettes and their effect on the human body, visit http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/tobacco_related_mortality/index.htm
To read the Surgeon General’s report on smoking and minors, visit http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/preventing-youth-tobacco-use/index.html.

Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer