Amarillo, TX - A new smoking report has the Surgeon General's office calling for action.
Four million U.S. teens have already taken their first drag and more than 80 percent of smokers in the U.S. picked up the habit when they were a teenager. With millions of Americans already addicted, the Surgeon General's office is putting its foot down to keep more teens from wandering onto the path of addiction.
"To live the last days of your life dependent upon oxygen, not being able to blow out birthday candles, not being able to walk around when you want to..." Texas Tech physician James Walker said. "I wish we could introduce some debilitated 70-year-olds to some 15-year-olds who are considering starting smoking."
Starting this June, the Surgeon General's office will not allow cashiers to sell packages containing more than 20 cigarettes to 18 or 19-year-olds. It is also not allowing tobacco companies to sponsor sport or entertainment events or print cigarette logos on clothing.
The message is clear. The younger people start, the shorter their lives may be.
"... It's worse if they started smoking at 13 or 14, then if they started smoking in their 30s," Walker said. "There's a longer duration of exposure to cigarette smoke if you started early."
While there is a push to stop smoking, some tobacco companies continue to target our youth through marketing.
"Tobacco companies messaging, you know, they're spending ten billion dollars a year advertising for the youth population to smoke," Meg Williams with Tobacco Free Amarillo said. "So for every smoker that dies right now, two kids are starting."
Tobacco Free Amarillo is trying to step in and help kids as young as elementary school on up to high school.
"... you gotta tell them a billion times and then they hit 26 and they never smoke." Williams said. "... the surgeon general's report shows that if you don't start smoking before your 26, you never do, so it's almost 100 percent true."