In 1964, when the first Surgeon General’s report came out, smoking was still considered glamorous and fashionable, and lighting up took place almost everywhere. Back then about 42% of Americans were lighting up. Today that number is down to about 18% for adult smokers, and officials are hoping that number will drop “to 10% in the next decade.” A lot has changed since the heyday of cigarette smoking, but a lot more will have to happen if we are to truly see those low numbers.
Many states have banned smoking in workplaces, restaurants and bars, and some are banning smoking in vehicles when children are present. But smoking needs to be banned from all public places. Removing smoking removes harmful secondhand smoke from the air and thirdhand smoke residue. It also removes smoking from looking like normal behavior.
Raising taxes on cigarettes is “one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking and other tobacco use, especially among kids,” according to the Campaign for tobacco-Free Kids. But But there is quite a discrepancy when it comes to cigarette taxes across the U.S. The federal tax rate is currently $1.01 for a pack of 20 cigarettes, but state tax amounts range from $4.35 in New York to $0.17 in Missouri. It should be noted that Missouri cities and towns can impose an additional tax on a pack of cigarettes from 4¢ to 7¢, but they still rank in last place for state excise tax rates on cigarettes. Florida’s rate stands at 133.9 cents per pack and we rank 27th in the nation. A lot of smokers won’t pay attention to health warnings, especially youth because they can’t see the immediate harm smoking is doing to their body, but they will pay attention when it hits them at their wallet.
Advertising may not be as prevalent as it once was, but it can still be found in various magazines and on tobacco websites. The tobacco industry says it doesn’t market to youth, but you rarely see an older person in these ads. Today you are more likely to see anti-smoking public service announcements in the form of Tips from Former Smokers, which started in 2012, than you are for an actual tobacco product. While some viewed the quit campaign as over the top and difficult to watch, calls to the quitline increased 132% over the same time period from 2011, and website hits increased 428%. Educating people on the damage smoking is doing to their bodies helps them make a healthier decision to quit.
Banning smoking, raising taxes and public service announcements are all good ways to help lower smoking rates, especially among those already smoking. However, according to the CDC and the Surgeon General, almost 90% of youth start smoking by age 18, before they are even legal age to purchase tobacco. Youth need more than just someone telling them not to smoke or use tobacco; they need to be educated so they can make an informed decision before they become addicted to the product. Education needs to be an important component in the goal to lower smoking and tobacco rates, especially among youth, which will translate to lower tobacco use among adults.
The Florida Statewide Tobacco Prevention Course is all about educating our Florida youth to the dangers of tobacco. Florida K-12 teachers, guidance counselors and administrators, in both public and private schools, who have a current DOE certificate, are able to take this course at no charge. Participants will learn what is in tobacco, how the tobacco industry uses marketing to lure kids in, and how to teach your students to say no to peer pressure and the tobacco industry. This course is available 24/7 online, and can provide up to 60 points to renew your DOE certificate. Last year over 18,600 Florida students received tobacco prevention lessons from our participants.
Let’s work together to make our Florida students tobacco free for life.