A new report by the U.S. Surgeon General says tobacco companies’ ads and promotional campaigns may influence teens and young adults to start smoking.
The report, “Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults,” says the “evidence is suggestive” that the companies have changed cigarette packaging to increase their appeal to teens, according to CNN.
“Targeted marketing encourages more young people to take up this deadly addiction every day,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a news release. “This administration is committed to doing everything we can to prevent our children from using tobacco.” The release notes that “targeted messages and images that portray smoking as an acceptable, appealing activity for young people are widespread, and advertising for tobacco products is prominent in retail stores and online.”
Surgeon General Regina Benjamin also discusses menthol cigarettes, and their appeal to young smokers, noting, “tobacco companies have long known of menthol’s ability to mask harshness associated with cigarette smoke, increase the ease of smoking, and provide a cooling sensation that appeals to many smokers, particularly new smokers.”
The report says state tobacco control programs could play a bigger role in preventing youth smoking. In fiscal year 2011, only two states funded tobacco prevention programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s minimum recommended amount of $15 to $20 per person.
Some states have used funding from a landmark $246 billion national court settlement from the tobacco industry, which was meant to be used for anti-smoking programs, for other purposes. Ohio used $230 million set aside for tobacco prevention on other budgetary priorities. New Hampshire has diverted tobacco settlement money for other budget needs. Iowa’s anti-smoking spending has been cut nearly in half.