URMC Smoking Cessation Expert Supports Latest Surgeon General Report

Report cites increased danger to youth; issues call to make the next generation tobacco-free

March 12, 2012

"If the State of New York fully funded its tobacco control program and adopted the strategies outlined in the report, youth smoking rates could decline by half in six years. Most importantly, we would greatly reduce the staggering toll that tobacco takes on our families and communities."

The University of Rochester Medical Center’s Scott McIntosh, Ph.D., a leading expert in smoking cessation, sees the latest Surgeon General’s report on tobacco use as a call to make a renewed effort to help children and young adults who are addicted to smoking.

Dr. Regina Benjamin, United States Surgeon General, late last week released a new report and called on the nation to make the next generation tobacco-free. According to the report, Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults, far too many youth and young adults are using tobacco. Today more than 600,000 middle school students and 3 million high school students smoke cigarettes. Benjamin’s report comes as the nation nears the 50th anniversary of the landmark 1964 Surgeon General’s Report that highlighted the harmful effects of tobacco.

McIntosh, an associate professor in the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine and the  Wilmot Cancer Center at URMC, and Director of the Greater Rochester Area Tobacco Cessation Center, applauded the Surgeon General’s efforts to draw attention to a major health concern for youth.

“If we are going to continue to make progress in our efforts to curb the prevalence and danger of smoking, we must attack it at its roots,” said McIntosh. “Each day more than 1,200 people die from causes brought on by smoking.  For every one of those deaths, at least two new youths or young adults become regular smokers.  What’s even more alarming is that 90 percent of these new or ‘replacement’ smokers have their first cigarette before they are 18 years old.”

The comprehensive report provides further scientific evidence on young people’s sensitivity to nicotine. The younger they are when they start using tobacco, the more likely they are to get addicted and the more heavily addicted they will become. Nicotine addiction will cause about three out of four teens to smoke into adulthood, even if they intend to quit after a few years. While the long-term health effects of tobacco use are well-known, this report concludes that smoking early in life has substantial health risks that begin almost immediately – including significant damage and impairment to the still developing heart and lungs - for youth and young adults. 

“The evidence in the new Surgeon General’s report clearly demonstrates the need for intensified and sustained efforts to prevent our young people from using tobacco,” McIntosh said. “Both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization confirm that cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and throughout the world. Through peer pressure and the marketing focus of the tobacco industry, young people are particularly vulnerable, and we must redouble our efforts to protect them. If the State of New York fully funded its tobacco control program and adopted the strategies outlined in the report, youth smoking rates could decline by half in six years. Most importantly, we would greatly reduce the staggering toll that tobacco takes on our families and communities.”

For more information on the Greater Rochester Area Tobacco Cessation Center, please visithttp://sites.google.com/site/gratcc/. For online copies of the full Surgeon General’s report, executive summary, and an easy-to-read guide on tobacco use and young people, visit www.surgeongeneral.gov.

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