National Consumers League

Feds fighting back against shocking teen smoking stats


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By Rebecca Burkholder, NCL Vice President for Health Policy Every day, nearly 4,000 kids under 18 try their first cigarette, and 1,000 kids become daily smokers. An estimated 20 percent of American high school students smoke cigarettes. As a parent of two teenagers, these statistics are shocking. What can be done to break the chain of addiction? The FDA recently enacted new rules to prohibit the sale, distribution, marketing, and promotion of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to youth. These tighter restrictions (enacted under the Tobacco Control Act of 2009) will hopefully help stem the tide of new smokers, and prevent cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease, and other health problems related to smoking. The new rules work to reduce youth access to cigarettes by doing the following, among other things:

  • Prohibiting the sale of cigarettes or smokeless tobacco to persons younger than 18 (some states already have similar restrictions on age, but this is the first federal law on age)
  • Prohibiting the sale of single cigarettes or packages containing fewer than 20 cigarettes
  • Prohibiting the distribution of free samples of cigarettes
  • Prohibiting the sale of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco in vending machines, except in limited circumstances.
  • Prohibiting tobacco companies from sponsoring any athletic, musical, cultural or other social event
  • Prohibiting the sale or distribution of items, such as hats and tee shirts, with tobacco brands or logos.
Since there is a proven link between tobacco marketing (ads and other promotions) and teenage tobacco use, these prohibitions are critical to preventing kids from becoming addicted to tobacco. Support the retailers in your community who comply with the new requirements, and help promote the regulations in your community. You can even sign up for a mobile text messaging program to help give FDA feedback. And, if you see the new tobacco rules are not being followed please contact FDA by calling 1-877-CTP-1371. The new regulations will help ensure that neither rock bands nor t-shirts can promote cigarette brands, and that is something this parent is glad to hear!