Transcript: HHS Sec. Kathleen Sebelius says every tobacco death is replaced by 2 new smokers under age 25
Transcript of remarks by Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health & Human Services, on the Surgeon General’s report on underage tobacco use (March 8, 2012):
“Since the first Surgeon General’s report on tobacco was published in 1964, the good news is we’ve seen the percentage of Americans who smoke steadily decline.
“In 1965, over 42% of Americans smoked. By 2004, it had fallen to just under 21%. And that’s very good news.
“But for all the progress we’ve made, tobacco use remains the biggest single threat to American’s health. It kills an estimated 443,000 Americans every year – 443,000. And every tobacco-related death is replaced by 2 new smokers under the age of 25.
“Today’s report brings more troubling news. It’s the first of its kind to explore the causes and consequences of tobacco use among youth and young adults. And it shows us just what we’re up against.
“Today, all over America, there are middle schoolers developing deadly tobacco addictions before they can even drive a car. And the younger a child is when they try cigarettes, the more likely they are to get and stay addicted to nicotines.
“One child picking up a tobacco product is one too many. But the fact that each and every day across America more than 3,800 kids under 18 smoke their first cigarette is completely unacceptable.
“But this report also underscores the importance of the historic efforts the Obama administration has taken to stop youth from using tobacco products and to help adults quit smoking.
“Since the numbers weren’t changing fast enough, we had to change the way we rid our communities of tobacco. So that’s exactly what we’re doing.
“We push wide-ranging legislation that, among other things, makes it harder for tobacco companies to market to our children. It also restricts companies from using terms like ‘light’ or ‘mild’ on products or marketing. And it bans certain fruit or candy flavored cigarettes. All of those were techniques aimed at people often younger than 18.
“That legislation had been debated for years and years in this country and we finally got it done.
“We’re also supporting local programs to help people quit smoking and stop people from starting in the first place.
“As part of last year’s health care law, we gave Americans better access to counseling to help them quit smoking before they get sick.
“Around the country, we have great partners. We’ve seen states join this fight with 28 states and Washington D.C. passing smoke-free laws to improve health. Over the last three years, we’ve also made great strides in our fight against tobacco and our efforts are paying off.
“But today’s report is an important reminder that we have a lot more work to do to make tobacco death and disease a part of our past and not a part of our future.”
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Assistant Sec. Howard Koh warns growing underage tobacco use imposes heavy burden on U.S. health system
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Surgeon General Regina Benjamin says U.S. can end youth smoking epidemic
- Department of Health and Human Services: Surgeon General’s report on “Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults” (PDF)
- Department of Health and Human Services: Surgeon General’s 2012 report on “Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults” – executive summary (PDF)
- C-Span.org: Video of press conference announcing the Surgeon General’s 2012 report on underage tobacco use