Published On: Fri, Mar 9th, 2012

American Indian youth, young adults have highest smoking rates

By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.

ONE FEATHER STAFF

 

                Nearly one in four high school seniors is a cigarette smoker according to a mammoth 920-page report released by the U.S. Surgeon General on Thursday, March 8.  American Indian adolescents (12-17) and young adults (18-25) top the lists of all race/ethnicities in rates of cigarette smoking. 

American Indian youth and young adults are smoking at rates much higher than other ethnic groups according to a new report by the Surgeon General. (Photo courtesy of Vjera Lisjak)

                According to the report, “For both age groups, American Indian/Alaskan Native males (14.3% adolescents, 50.0% young adults) and females (16.3% adolescents, 46.1% young adults) had the highest prevalence of cigarette smoking.” 

                The report did say, “American Indian/Alaskan Native youth have experienced especially sharp declines in current cigarette smoking in recent years, which suggests that some progress has been achieved in reducing disparities in cigarette smoking in this racial/ethnic group.  By adulthood, American Indian/Alaskan Native males and females will still have the highest prevalence of current cigarette smoking of all racial/ethnic groups.” 

                The report states that cigarette smoking overwhelmingly starts at a young age with 88 percent of adult smokers reporting their first cigarette by age 18 and 99 percent reporting their first by age 26. 

Graph by Scott McKie B.P./One Feather; Source: U.S. Surgeon General's Report

                “Each day across the United States over 3,800 youth under 18 years of age start smoking,” Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin wrote in the preface to the report.  “Although much progress has been made to reduce the prevalence of smoking since the first Surgeon General’s report in 1964, today nearly one in four high school seniors and one in three young adults under age 26 smoke.” 

                Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, related in a statement that an estimated 443,000 Americans die each year from tobacco usage.  “Cigarette smoking costs the nation $96 billion in direct medical costs and $97 billion in lost productivity annually.” 

                She added, “We have come a long way since the days of smoking on airplanes and in college classrooms, but we have a long way to go.  We have the responsibility to act and do something to prevent our youth from smoking.  The prosperity and health of our nation depend on it.” 

                The report states that there are many social and environmental influences that may encourage tobacco use.  “Youth who are exposed to images of smoking in movies are more likely to smoke.  Those who get the most exposure to onscreen smoking are about twice as likely to begin smoking as those who get the least exposure.  Images of smoking in movies have declined over the past decade; however, in 2010 nearly a third of top-grossing movies produced for children – those with ratings of G, PG or PG-13 – contained images of smoking.”

Full report: Surgeon General’s Report