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Resolve This: Underage Smoking

In 2012, the U.S. Surgeon General released a report on tobacco use among youth and young adults. The report shows that almost no one starts smoking after age 25. With this knowledge, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to target the next generation with prevention efforts to help it remain tobacco-free. 

Here are some startling statistics: 

  • Each day, more than 1,200 people die in the U.S. from smoking.
  • Each death is replaced by at least two new young smokers.
  • Nearly 90 percent of smokers light up by age 18, 99 percent by age 26.
  • One in four high school students, and one in three young adults, smokes.


Tobacco companies reportedly spend more than $1 million an hour (!) in advertising – and young people are watching. The report states:

  • Price-reducing promotions lead to higher rates of use among young people.
  • Kid-friendly candy and fruit flavoring is offered in cigarette-sized cigars and is popular among high school students.
  • Snuff now comes in spitless varieties, which can be used in schools and other smoke-free spots without detection.
  • Promotional websites feature videos, games and contests that may appeal to youth.
  • The myth that smoking makes you thin, perpetuated in cigarette ads, may appeal especially to young girls.


Are these marketing tactics effective? According to the report, more than 80 percent of underage smokers are smoking the top three advertised brands.

What can be done to influence young people not to smoke? 

  • Educate young people early on about the long-term effects of smoking. If they’ve already started smoking, help them quit.
  • Lobby to limit tobacco marketing and smoking in media youth are likely to see.
  • Lobby to raise cigarette prices, to prohibit underage sales (including online sales, which may have less oversight) and to ban smoking in public places.
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