Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S. Currently the most commonly used tobacco product among middle and high school students is the e-cigarette.
From 2011-2015, there was a significant increase in the use of e-cigarettes (aerosol inhalants consisting of nicotine, flavorings, and other additives) compared to conventional tobacco products which saw a decrease. While one might be excited about the decline of traditional cigarette and cigar use, the increase in the new e-cig and hookah trend resulted in an overall no change in youth tobacco use.
In fact, about 4.7 million middle and high school students reported using tobacco products in 2015. Despite many prevention efforts to reduce youth tobacco use, the number of youth that are still using tobacco is alarming.
Even with many efforts being made to decrease youth tobacco use such as regulations on public smoking, cigarette excise tax, and a reduction in advertisement, youth and young adults are still targeted to become smokers. Youth are vulnerable to social and environmental influences to use tobacco; messages and images that make tobacco use appealing to them are everywhere. Tobacco companies spend more than a million dollars an hour to market their products.
Although ads that sensationalize tobacco use are highly regulated, the Surgeon General’s report on youth tobacco use concludes that tobacco product advertising is still a popular source for why youth begin using tobacco products.
According to the Indiana Youth Risk Behavior Survey, while tobacco use is still an issue, it is not as prevalent as other risky behaviors.
In fact, after analyzing data from about 1800 students, only about 3.4 students in a class of 30 use tobacco products compared to 9.2 students who drink alcohol. Utilizing social norming campaigns to show students that not everyone is smoking or using some other smokeless form of tobacco may be a successful prevention strategy.
Other methods have been used to tackle prevention of youth tobacco use such as school based, community interventions, mass media/public education, advertising restrictions, youth access restrictions, tobacco excise taxes, and direct restrictions on smoking.
In an effort to decrease chronic youth tobacco use House Bill 1578 was proposed this year to raise the legal smoking age as well as increase the tax on cigarettes. With much opposition the bill ultimately failed, but revisions are said to be made to reintroduce it at a later time.