The New York Times
By DUFF WILSON
Published: July 8, 2010
The nation has failed to reach its 2010 health goal of reducing high school smoking to 16 percent, federal officials said Thursday in a report calling for a resurgence of antismoking advertising to counter the tobacco industry’s $12 billion marketing campaign.
”People are getting the image that it’s cool to use nicotine as a drug,” Terry F. Pechacek of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in an interview. ”We need to bring back our voice, our antismoking mass media campaign.”
The popularity of hookah bars and smokeless nicotine products, Mr. Pechacek said, are the modern equivalent of the banned Joe Camel cartoon in their appeal to youths. And some experts worry that the new health campaign against obesity — spearheaded by Michelle Obama from the White House — may be hampering donations to antitobacco campaigns as public health issues shift in emphasis and compete for funds.
”Over all, the antismoking countermessage has been lost,” Mr. Pechacek said as the C.D.C. released its biannual survey of more than 10,000 high school students, showing 19.5 percent of them are smokers.
High school smoking rates dipped significantly to 21.9 percent in 2003, from 34.8 percent in 1995, then progress stalled, he said.
One-third of high school smokers are expected to die prematurely of tobacco-related disease, said Mr. Pechacek, the associate director for science in the agency’s Office on Smoking and Health. With about four million students graduating from high school each year, the difference between the current rate and the ”Healthy People 2010” goal set by the government 10 years ago amounts to an additional 140,000 student smokers and 46,000 premature deaths for each high school class nationally.
Separately, a New England Journal of Medicine commentary on Wednesday was titled ”Don’t Forget Tobacco.”
”By assuming that the tobacco war has been won, we risk consigning millions of Americans to premature death,” Dr. Steven A. Schroeder, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and Kenneth E. Warner, dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan, wrote in the article.
”At a time when all eyes are focused on health care reform, escalating medical costs and childhood obesity, cigarette smoking remains by far the most common cause of preventable death and disability in the United States,” they added. ”The prevalence of smoking in the United States hovers at 20 percent, more than eight million people are sick or disabled as a result of tobacco use, and smoking kills 450,000 Americans annually.”
Because of a lagging antismoking campaign, they said the total smoking rate in the nation was expected to decline only to 16 percent by 2020, and to stabilize at 13.5 percent after midcentury unless more was done to stop it.
Mr. Warner said financing for antismoking promotions had been lost from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which has turned more toward childhood obesity, and the American Legacy Foundation, an antitobacco group created in the 1998 master settlement agreement between states and the tobacco industry.
Some public health experts say they are concerned that obesity campaigns have attracted more money and attention recently than programs against tobacco. And Mrs. Obama’s national campaign against childhood obesity is occurring at a time when President Obama has said he has found it difficult to quit smoking.
”I find it ironic, but I think it also points out the challenge, the addiction that smokers are faced with,” Mr. Warner said. ”Those are the two pre-eminent public health issues of the day. What I regret is when we start posing obesity versus tobacco, rather than saying those issues are so important to public health, both of them, that they need to be elevated above the fray.”
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