ANR UPDATE, 35(2), Summer 2016
Creating a Tobacco-Free Generation
The 1994 Report of the Surgeon General on Smoking or Health was one of the first to document the benefits of smokefree laws and policies on youth smoking behavior. It noted that policies in schools, workplaces, and communities that restrict smoking are effective in discouraging youth from trying tobacco. Subsequent research further documented that youth access laws and tax increases can be important tools in a comprehensive youth tobacco prevention strategy, but the most effective program to prevent or reduce tobacco consumption at all age levels is the creation of smokefree homes, workplaces, and public places.
An 11-year longitudinal study published in 2015 quantified the effect of 100% smokefree laws on the smoking behavior of adolescents and young adults. Results showed that smokefree workplace laws were associated with significantly lower odds of initiating smoking and helped to reduce tobacco usage among current smokers. "The effect of smoke-free workplace laws on smoking initiation is equivalent to a $1.57 (in 2007 dollars) tax increase. Smoke-free bar laws are associated with lower rates of current smoking, as well as a decrease in the number of days reported smoking among current smokers."
When we work to protect the rights of nonsmokers, regardless of age, we send the message that smoking is simply not socially acceptable. Working to promote nonsmoking as the norm, community by community, is the most effective means to reduce smoking by youth. There are several reasons why putting the emphasis on smokefree air works as a youth prevention strategy:
- When youth are not singled out for special treatment, they have less to rebel against. Tobacco (or e-cigarettes or even marijuana) is not dangled in front of them as a forbidden fruit, only to be enjoyed by adults.
- Effective smokefree air policies result in fewer people modeling smoking behavior. It establishes smokefree environments and non-smoking as the cultural social norm.
- Smokefree air policies focus attention where it needs to be focused - on worker and patron health and safety - not on the issue of age.
ANR supports a comprehensive approach to tobacco control that includes smokefree laws, raising excise taxes, fully funding state tobacco control programs, and, most recently, raising the age to purchase tobacco, including e-cigarettes, to 21. Smokefree laws garner the greatest public health benefit by preventing exposure of an entire community or state to a known carcinogen. Smokefree laws and tobacco-free policies on college campuses are important tobacco control tools to prevent young people from smoking. They not only protect bystanders from exposure to toxic secondhand smoke, but they also contribute to less smoking among adolescents and young adults by creating a non-smoking social norm.
In order to effectively create a Tobacco-Free Generation, we must ensure that
everyone has the right to breathe smokefree air.
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