New Surgeon General’s Report Calls On Arkansas

Almost 50 years after the landmark 1964 Surgeon General’s Report on tobacco, Dr. Regina Benjamin, United States Surgeon General, released a new report and called on the nation to make the next generation tobacco-free. According to the report, Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults, far too many youth and young adults are using tobacco. Today more than 600,000 middle school students and 3 million high school students smoke cigarettes. InArkansas alone, an estimated 23.5 percent of high school students smoke.

Each day more than 1,200 people die due to smoking.  For every one of those deaths, at least two new youths or young adults become regular smokers.  And 90 percent of these replacement smokers smoke their first cigarette before they turn age 18.

InArkansas, the latest data show that overall approximately 16,754 fewerArkansashigh school students are users of cigarettes now than in 2000. Nationwide, declines in the use of tobacco by youth and young adults have slowed for cigarette smoking and stalled for smokeless tobacco use after years of steady progress.

The comprehensive report provides further scientific evidence on young people’s sensitivity to nicotine. The younger they are when they start using tobacco, the more likely they are to get addicted and the more heavily addicted they will become. Nicotine addiction will cause about three out of four teens to smoke into adulthood, even if they intend to quit after a few years.

The report finds that tobacco marketing is a key factor in causing young people to start using tobacco, and nicotine addiction keeps them using it.  More than $1 million an hour is spent on marketing tobacco products in this country–and 99 percent of all new smokers come from youth and young adult populations who are enticed to smoke by this marketing. Tobacco


companies say their marketing only promotes brand choices among adult smokers –but regardless of intent, it encourages underage youth to smoke.  The more young people are exposed to cigarette advertising and promotional activities, the more likely they are to smoke.  The report shows tobacco advertising and promotion encourages the myth that smoking makes and keeps you thin.  This message is especially appealing to young girls.  This report concludes that teen smokers are not thinner than non-smokers.

Images in tobacco marketing make tobacco use look appealing to young people, who want to fit in with their peers.  Kids and teens see smoking in their social circles, movies they watch, video games they play, Web sites they visit, and many communities where they live.  Smoking is often portrayed as a normal, acceptable, even appealing activity; young people exposed to these images are more likely to smoke.   And in 2010, nearly a third of top-grossing movies for children – those with G, PG, or PG-13 ratings – contained images of tobacco use. The report concludes that smoking in movies causes youth to start smoking.

“The evidence in the new Surgeon General’s report clearly demonstrates the need for intensified and sustained efforts to prevent our young people from using tobacco,” said Dr. Carolyn Dresler, medical director for the Arkansas Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program.  “We know what works: comprehensive efforts that include mass media campaigns, 100 percent smoke-free laws in restaurants, bars and worksites, high cigarette prices, evidence-based school programs, and sustained community-wide efforts. We must redouble our efforts to protect the young people inArkansas.”

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 almost immediately–even for youth and young adults.  For heart disease, we see early damage in most young smokers and those most sensitive die very young.  Smoking during youth and adolescence slows down lung growth.  Teens who smoke are not only short of breath today – they may end up as adults with lungs that never reach their full capacity.  That damage is permanent.

Although the smoking rate amongArkansashigh school students has declined from 35.8 percent in to 2000 to 23.5 percent in 2010, each year 3,700Arkansaskids under 18 become new daily smokers.  In addition,Arkansascontinues to prevent youth access to cigarettes.  The percentage of successful youth attempts to purchase tobacco from retail sources has dropped from 21.9 percent in 2001 to 5.4 percent in 2012.

“If we adopted the strategies outlined in the report, youth smoking rates would continue to decline,” said Dresler. “Most importantly, we would greatly reduce the staggering toll that tobacco takes on our families and communities.”

For more information on Arkansastobacco control activities, please visit or  For online copies of the full Surgeon Generals’s report, executive summary, and an easy-to-read guide on tobacco use and young people, visit