Health officials, led by acting U.S. Surgeon General Boris Lushniak, are confidently looking toward a “tobacco-free generation.”
The Associated Press reports that recent changes have prompted officials to talk about goals such as dropping the adult smoking rate to 10 percent in the next ten years and to as low as five percent by 2050.
In January, Lushniak released an extensive report on smoking that pushed for advancing measures to control tobacco. In a later interview, he said, “We believe we have the public health tools to get us to the zero level.”
Other anti-smoking organizations, like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, point to current policies and programs that show evidence in driving down tobacco use. There are other deterrents as well, including cigarette taxes, which have tripled since 1990; smoking bans in restaurants, bars and workplaces; and public opinion that smoking is no longer a normal behavior.
The government has also stepped up its anti-smoking messages. Last week, the Food and Drug Administration launched a new, teen-targeted campaign and prior to that, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention introduced its own anti-tobacco advertising effort.
The power of tobacco companies has also waned with costly defeats in courts, including the 1998 settlement of a case where more than 40 states demanded compensation for the costs of treating smoking-related illnesses. National pharmacy chain CVS, with more than 7,600 drugstores, dealt another blow, announcing that it would stop selling tobacco products.
Despite these recent developments, others are less optimistic, and believe that success will only come if the FDA regulates smoking.
In 2009, the FDA was given the authority to regulate tobacco products, including prohibiting the use of menthol flavoring in cigarettes. However, there have been no proposed regulations, and the tobacco industry has a history of fighting them.
Experts believe that a complete ban, or a prohibition of cigarettes, is unlikely. Others believe the most intriguing option is for smokers to make the switch to electronic cigarettes, battery-powered devices that provide users with aerosol puffs that contain nicotine.