In 1964, the first Surgeon General’s report on the effects of smoking on health was released. In the nearly 50 years since, extensive data from thousands of studies have consistently substantiated the devastating effects of smoking on the lives of millions of Americans. Yet today in the United States, tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of death and disease for both men and women.
More than 1,000 people are killed every day by cigarettes, and one-half of all long-term smokers are killed by smoking-related diseases. A large proportion of these deaths are from early heart attacks, chronic lung diseases, and cancers. For every person who dies from tobacco use, another 20 Americans continue to suffer with at least one serious tobacco-related illness. But the harmful effects of smoking do not end with the smoker. Every year, thousands of nonsmokers die from heart disease and lung cancer, and hundreds of thousands of children suffer from respiratory infections because of exposure to secondhand smoke. There is no risk-free level of exposure to tobacco smoke, and there is no safe tobacco product.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2010.
The Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Division of Addiction Psychiatry can deliver coordinated training and technical assistance to the regionally-based NJ prevention coalitions, their stakeholders, partners, and staff. The goal is to help prevention coalitions increase the capacity for prevention of tobacco use as part of their work in reducing the harms from substance use.
Residents of New Jersey continue to suffer devastating consequences from the effects of tobacco use. Most recent data from the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) indicates a smoking prevalence of 17.3% among adults in New Jersey. Data on youth indicate a 16.1% prevalence of tobacco use among New Jersey High School Students. There is a tremendous need for continued and even increased tobacco control efforts in New Jersey. Smoking is also over-represented in our most vulnerable populations, with high rates in the poor, the under-educated and the disabled. Individuals with a behavioral health condition are estimated to represent at least one third of the remaining US smokers. See the American Lung Association's State of Tobacco Report Card for NJ.
Tobacco use by teens and young adults also remains shockingly high in the United States. Today, more than 3.6 million middle and high school students smoke cigarettes. In fact for every person who dies due to smoking- more than 1,200 each day- at least two youth or young adults become regular smokers. Nearly 90% of these smokers try their first cigarette by age 18. New Jersey statistics are similar, indicating that nearly half of high school students have tried tobacco. While flavored cigarettes are now prohibited, the tobacco industry still puts fruit flavoring and other kid-friendly flavors in many of their cigars. Many of these little cigars look exactly like cigarettes with a darker wrapper. Many smokeless products are also flavored and new smokeless products are always emerging, like electronic cigarettes and dissolvable tobacco. All of these products can cause serious health problems and lead to nicotine addiction and future smoking.
Young people are the prime target for tobacco advertising and marketing and underage tobacco use is a major public health crisis in New Jersey. For example, more cigarettes are sold in convenience stores than in any other type of store, and 70% of adolescents shop in convenience stores at least once a week. Local stores also run sales on tobacco products and place vivid, eye cathching ads in windows and outside their buildings. targeting youth. We need to work together to help educate youth, retailers and other community stakeholders so we can further reduce youth tobacco use. Prevention and treatment are critical.