Tobacco is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States. As advocates for the public interest, Attorneys General across the country say they are actively working to enforce and reduce tobacco use and protect consumers from its deadly toll.
Teens must be receiving the Attorney General’s message because smoking rates among American teens continue to decline, with the proportion who are current smokers in 2004 down from recent peak levels in the mid-1990s by one-half among the nation’s 8th and 10th graders and by a third among 12th graders.
A study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse further investigated teen smoking trends. The authors of the forthcoming report findings are Johnston, Patrick O’Malley, Jerald Bachman and John Schulenberg-all psychologists and research professors at the Institute for Social Research.
25 percent of 12th graders reported smoking in the prior 30 days, along with 16 percent of 10th graders and 9 percent of 8th graders. Though the number of teen smokers is still substantial all indicator seem to show that teens will peer pressure their schoolmates and friends out of smoking.
“We know that young people have come to see cigarette smoking as more dangerous, while they also have become less accepting of cigarette use, and these changes continued into 2004,” Johnston says. Negative attitudes toward smoking has increased. For example, the proportion of 12th graders who say that they prefer to date people who do not smoke rose from 64 percent in 1977 to 72 percent in 2004. If a smoking student continues to be overlooked as other students’ potential dates then the stigma will force smoking students to change.
The investigators contribute several number of factors to the turnaround in teen smoking’s decline, including:
1. Negative publicity the tobacco industry incurred during the 1990s when their practices were brought under public scrutiny
2. The master settlement agreement between the state attorneys general and the tobacco industry that led to a number of changes and restrictions in tobacco company marketing practices
3. Big increase inn cigarette prices, part of this was the fill the industry’s need to recoup money lost in the settlement
4. Retirement of the Joe Camel cigarette advertisement character
5. The initiation of anti-smoking ads by a number of states and nationally by the American Legacy Foundation and activist groups, which was created and funded under the settlement
However, the states must continue to announce the risks and negative effects of smoking. “Whether we will see teen smoking continue to decline in the future is likely to depend on what actions society and the tobacco companies take,” Johnston warns.