The U.S. Surgeon General's Office released its first report on teen smoking today since 1994 and the conclusions are disturbing. Almost one in five high school-aged teens and one in three young adults under age 26 smoke despite a half-century of federal warnings about the health risks of using tobacco.
“The numbers are really shocking,” Surgeon General Regina Benjamin said in an interview, citing the reports data. The report, Making Our Next Generation Tobacco-Free
, finds that while the overall rate of smokers has declined over the years, the rate of the decline has slowed as anti-smoking programs have been cut nationwide in state and local budgets.
The report also found that more high school students are using smokeless tobacco and many smoke and chew tobacco.
According to the surgeon general's report, it's particularly important to prevent kids and teens from using tobacco because those who start smoking as teenagers are more likely to face a life-long addiction. Tobacco use at a young age also causes more damage to lung function, lung growth, and heart health in developing bodies.
More than 80 percent of smokers start smoking by age 18, and 99 percent of adult smokers in the U.S. start by age 26.
"In order to end this epidemic, we need to focus on where we can prevent it and where we can see the most effect, and that's with young people," Benjamin said in an interview with the Associated Press. "We want to make our next generation tobacco-free, and I think we can."