Teens & Tobacco

Thursday, March 8, 2012 - 3:38pm

Surgeon general says she's "shocked" one-in-four teens use tobacco.

The number of teens and young adults who smoke should be considered an "epidemic" according to a new government report.

On Thursday Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin released an extensive report on tobacco use among the nation's youth.

Among the most notable findings: Nearly one in four high school seniors smokes.

3,800 kids pick up the habit every day.

Dr. Benjamin called the statistics "shocking".

That's almost an understatement according to Dr. Otis Brawley of the American Cancer Society.

"Shocking, disgusting, upsetting," he says.

The youth smoking rate had been declining since the late 1990s, but slowed considerably in recent years.

Dr. Brawley attributes the plateau in part to campaigns against higher taxes during the weak economy.

"Excise taxes on tobacco especially are effective in preventing 14 and 15 year old kids from buying cigarettes," he explains.

Other ways the report suggests combatting youth smoking include smoke-free laws and tobacco prevention programs.

The government hopes to get teens' attention in this new public service announcement as well.

Big tobacco is criticized in the Surgeon General's report for spending more than $27 million each day in marketing and promotions.

Altria, parent company of Philip Morris USA, says it markets to adults only through age-verified websites and direct mailing.

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