Teens are still the target market of the tobacco industry, which spends an average of $192.7 million in the state of Maryland alone promoting its products. Cartoon camels and rap singers have joined the cowboy and super model images. When adults in Talbot County cessation classes are asked when they began smoking, they most often tell us they were between 12 and 15 years of age. Tobacco was their gateway drug – a drug which may lead to a future risk of using more dangerous hard drugs and crime.
Now here is the sad truth, “used as directed,” tobacco kills. It is estimated that 108,000 kids, in Maryland, under the age of 18 will die prematurely from smoking. Because of this statistic alone, we need to be in a war with the tobacco industry for those kids. One weapon in this war is raising the cost of tobacco. Studies have shown that raising the tax on tobacco is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking among youth and adults. Another weapon is using revenue raised by the excise tax on tobacco, both on a federal level and a state level, to pay for health care expenditures. Annual health care costs inMaryland directly caused by smoking are $ 1.96 billion. On April 1, 2009, a federal excise tax of an additional 62 cents will go on every pack of cigarettes, increasing that tax to $1.01. This additional revenue will be used to fund the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Parents must be in this war on tobacco on behalf of their children’s health. Young people have indicated on the Maryland State Board of Education 2007 Maryland Adolescent Survey that they do indeed care what their parents think. While teens are great at giving parents mixed messages, the majority of Talbot teens are listening to what their parents say. Parents need to say “no” to their teens’ experimentation with the gateway drug, tobacco, being clear and consistent about why you don’t want them smoking or dipping. Tobacco is not the lesser of all the substance abuse evils, as some parents seem to think.
For more facts on tobacco and kids, call Talbot Partnership at 410-819-6087 or visit talbotpartnership.org or tobaccofreekids.org.
Talbot Partnership, which was founded in 1991 as a community coalition, encourages the community to recognize the problems and implement solutions related to alcohol, tobacco and other drug abuse by implementing policies, promoting early intervention programs and building a community culture that favors drug-free youth.