Surgeon General: Teen Smoking an ‘Epidemic’

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Teen Health

EDITOR’S NOTE–Despite the ubiquitous message that smoking is harmful and can be addictive, each day almost 4,000 young people smoke their first cigarette. Tobacco use usually begins in early adolescence, typically by age 16, and almost all first-time use occurs before high school graduation.

Unfortunately, a recent report from the surgeon general suggests that the rapidly dropping teen smoking rates seen in the late 1990s and early 2000s are now falling more slowly.

WASHINGTON — More than 3.6 million kids smoke cigarettes, according to a new report from the surgeon general on the scope and health consequences on tobacco use among youth.

“Today, more than 600,000 middle school students and three million high school students smoke,” according to U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, MD, who called youth smoking an “epidemic.”

The report is the first aimed at children and adolescents since one in 1994 that concluded that if young people don’t try smoking by the age of 18, they’ll likely never start.

Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable and premature death, killing an estimated 443,000 Americans each year, according to the report.

Every day in the U.S., more than 3,800 young people under 18 smoke their first cigarette and more than 1,000 of them will become daily smokers, according to the report.

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