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A Crackdown on Smoking and Tobacco

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

History was made at the end of last week when after a decade of advocacy by the AAP and pediatricians both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives voted to give final approval to The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which will now be forwarded to President Obama who will sign the measure into law. President Obama, who himself had admitted to a smoking habit that began in college, and continues to struggle with kicking his own nicotine addiction, realizes the importance of preventing young people from beginning smoking in the first place. Current estimates are that nearly 3,500 youth begin smoking each day and with this bill there are numerous efforts aimed at reducing cigarette advertising and marketing to youths.

Included in this legislation is a federal ban on all outdoor tobacco advertising within 1,000 feet of schools and playgrounds. Tobacco sponsorships of sports and entertainment events will also be banned. Cigarettes aimed particularly for the “younger crowd” that are sweetened with candy flavors or herbs and spices will no longer be available. Warning labels will also be bolder and cover 50% of the front and rear of a carton of cigarettes. All of these efforts, as well as the increased cigarette taxes recently levied (which are going to pay for a children’s health program) will serve as deterrents to smoking.

Once again, educating our children about the risks of smoking and nicotine dependence is up to parents. Parents must model the behavior of not smoking and need to continue to have open discussions regarding the long-term health effects of cigarette smoking. As we know teens “live in the moment” many of the long-term health consequences are often lost on youthful ears. I find talking to teens about yellow teeth, smelly hair, bad breath and ugly fingernails sometimes plays as well as those discussions about addiction and lung cancer. I think it is best that they hear both, but maybe at different stages and phases of their youth.

With the passage of this significant legislation we are hopefully one step closer to a smoke free society.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again soon.

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