Nearly all tobacco use begins during youth and young adulthood. These young individuals progress from smoking occasionally to smoking every day. Each day across the United States over 3,800 youth under 18 years of age start smoking. 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.
Of every three young smokers, only one will quit, and one of those remaining smokers will die from tobacco-related causes. Most of these young people never considered the long-term health consequences associated with tobacco use when they started smoking; and nicotine, a highly addictive drug, causes many to continue smoking well into adulthood, often with deadly consequences.
This Surgeon General’s report examines in detail the epidemiology, health effects, and causes of tobacco use among youth ages 12 through 17 and young adults ages 18 through 25. For the first time tobacco data on young adults as a discrete population has been explored. This is because nearly all tobacco use begins in youth and young adulthood, and because young adults are a prime target for tobacco advertising and marketing activities. This report also highlights the efficacy of strategies to prevent young people from using tobacco.