You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Commentary: Protecting our children from tobacco addiction


Texas legislators have proposed bipartisan legislation to raise the state’s minimum legal sale age for tobacco products to 21. Legislators and public health representatives – including our two organizations – came together at the Capitol recently to draw attention to the issue. Evidence and experts strongly suggest this policy would have a sharp impact in preventing children from using tobacco and starting down a path that so often ends with serious illness and premature death.

The challenge is clear.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States; 20 percent of all deaths and 30 percent of cancer deaths are linked to tobacco use. Despite great strides in reducing smoking, tobacco use still claims more than 480,000 Americans lives each year.

In Texas alone, tobacco’s annual toll amounts to 28,000 lives, more than $8.8 billion in direct health care expenses and another $8.2 billion in productivity losses.

MD Anderson clinicians are daily witnesses to the devastating impacts of tobacco use, including the suffering of both cancer patients undergoing treatment as well as their families. As an institution devoted to ending cancer, MD Anderson applauds the use of sound evidence to inform policy that protects the public health.

Addressing this preventable public health menace requires a comprehensive strategy that includes policy, education and cessation services, especially to those in the greatest need. That’s where Tobacco 21 comes into play.

Approximately 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking before they were 21. Each day in the U.S., about 2,500 children under 18 smoke their first cigarette — and another 400 become daily smokers.

In Texas, every year about 13,700 children become daily smokers; roughly one-third of them will ultimately die prematurely as a result. All totaled, there are nearly 500,000 Texas youth alive now who are expected to die prematurely from smoking.

Raising the tobacco age to 21 will reduce tobacco use among youth and young adults – age groups when nearly all tobacco use begins and that are heavily targeted by the tobacco industry. In addition, the 18-to-21 age range is a critical time when many experimenting with tobacco products become addicted. If we prevent these young people from ever starting to smoke, then most never will. Raising the age to 21 will also help keep tobacco out of high schools, where younger teens often obtain it from older students.

According to data from the Institute of Medicine report, increasing the tobacco age to 21 across the U.S. would, over time, reduce the smoking rate by an average of 12 percent, with the greatest effect in youth ages 15 to 17. The action would lower smoking-related deaths by an estimated 10 percent and result in 223,000 fewer premature deaths.

The report also states that raising the tobacco age would significantly reduce the number of adolescents and young adults who start smoking and immediately improve the health of adolescents, young adults and young mothers who would be deterred from smoking, as well as their children.

We have made great strides in reducing smoking rates among adults and youth, reaching all-time lows of 15.1 percent and 10.8 percent, respectively. However, without action to prevent our children from becoming addicted, we will continue to fight this winnable battle for the foreseeable future.

California and Hawaii already have enacted statewide laws raising the tobacco age, as have several major U.S. cities – including New York, Chicago, Boston and St. Louis – and at least 220 other localities in 16 states.

As a physician and public health advocate, we urge legislators in Texas to consider these facts. Raising the tobacco age to 21 — together with smoke-free laws and comprehensive prevention and cessation services — will save lives. Our duty is to protect the health of our communities, making it essential we do all we can to reduce tobacco use by our young people.

Dr. Hawk is vice president and division head with Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Lee is executive vice president with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Krauthammer: Populism on pause

Yesterday’s conventional wisdom: A wave of insurgent populism is sweeping the West, threatening its foundational institutions — the European Union, the Western alliance, even liberal democracy itself. Today’s conventional wisdom (post-first-round French presidential election): The populist wave has crested, soon to abate. Chances...
Collins: Trump’s can’t-do record

Well, heck, who said Donald Trump wasn’t going to accomplish anything in his first 100 days? All of a sudden there’s a one-page tax plan and a raft of deal-making, while the Senate was bused over to the White House grounds for a briefing on North Korea. Maybe the president believes that when you can make an entire chamber of Congress ride...
Letters to the editor: April 28, 2017
Letters to the editor: April 28, 2017

Re: April 15 article, “CPS investigator: Is this the hardest job in Texas?” I am responding to your question — “CPS investigator: Is this the hardest job in Texas?” — with an unequivocal “Yes!” I speak from personal experience — 23 years as Child Protective Services caseworker and supervisor in...
Commentary: Trump’s budget should fund global operations beyond defense
Commentary: Trump’s budget should fund global operations beyond defense

The Trump administration’s budget proposal severely cuts money for diplomacy and development in favor of the military. While on the surface this looks like an attempt to make us safer by strengthening our military, it will cost us our overall national security. An increase of $54 billion in military spending offset by a 30-percent decrease in...
Commentary: Honor Muny’s history by using the land for more than golf

Col. George Brackenridge donated 350 acres of beautiful land in West Austin to the University of Texas in 1910 “for the purpose of advancing and promoting university education.” For more than 100 years — and without a master plan in place — UT has used parts of the land for research, student housing and a variety of uses. The...
More Stories