Co-authored with Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
It's hard to believe that every day, more than 2,800 kids under the age of 18 try smoking for the first time. Research tells us that lifetime smokers and users of other tobacco products typically start before they even graduate from high school. And a teen who starts smoking at such an early age is far more likely to develop a strong addiction that can overpower even the most well-intentioned attempts to quit.
Any efforts to bring an end to tobacco use for good must include reducing experimentation and tobacco use among teenagers and pre-teens. Today, more than one in five high school students currently use tobacco. This needs to change. By working together, we can help our youth lead tobacco-free lives by helping them understand the lifelong damage tobacco use and smoking can inflict on their health so that those who don't smoke never start, and to provide those who already smoke the support they need to quit.
Over the past year, since CVS Health announced that all CVS/pharmacy locations across the country would stop selling tobacco products, we've seen significant progress made in the fight against tobacco in our local communities. Hawaii County recently banned the sale of tobacco products or electronic smoking devices to people under the age of 21. Last week, the Mayor of New Orleans signed into law a measure making bars and casinos throughout the city smoke-free. And now there is new legislation in California that is attempting to raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21.
We've also been inspired by youth who have chosen to live tobacco-free and are joining the tobacco policy change discussion. Many of them are making their voices heard through organizations that empower youth and provide them with the resources needed to reduce tobacco use among young people. The energy and commitment of these advocates for change motivate us to do even more. But we can't do it alone. We need the support of local governments, schools, parents and other members of our local communities to stand with us in the fight against tobacco. When we work together, everyone plays an important role in implementing public health strategies that can reduce the use of tobacco among kids and teens, as well as reduce exposure to secondhand smoke.
With the tobacco industry targeting our youngest generation with new alternatives to smoking, like e-cigarettes, we need to be even more aggressive in our efforts. By implementing more smoking cessation and tobacco prevention programs, we can reduce the number of youth who use tobacco. By acting together, we will not only help create healthier futures for today's youth but will make a positive impact on generations to come.
For information on how to get involved in helping kids lead tobacco-free lives, please visit http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/take_action/.
One year after CVS Health declared it would quit the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products in its 7,800 pharmacies nationwide, the CVS Health Foundation has made a $5 million commitment to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids to launch its new "Making the Next Generation Tobacco-Free" grant program, which will provide grants to organizations committed to helping people lead tobacco-free lives and working toward the goal of making the next generation tobacco-free.