“Enough is Enough,” said the acting U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Boris Lushniak when he recently released his office’s report, The Health Consequences of Smoking. “We need to eliminate the use of cigarettes and create a tobacco-free generation.” While we’ve made great strides in reducing smoking rates, much more needs to be done to fight the tobacco epidemic and prevent our youth from smoking.
Since 1964, more than 20 million Americans have died prematurely as a result of tobacco use. Smoking causes disease in nearly all the organs of the body, and one out of three cancer deaths is now caused by smoking. Women are now just as likely as men to die from smoking. And 5.6 million children alive today will die early from smoking if we don’t do more to reduce current smoking rates.
In Queens, 261,000 residents and 6,000 public high school students smoke. One-third of them will die prematurely as a result. We must renew our efforts and do more to provide the resources needed to reduce these numbers.
We know what works to lower smoking rates and prevent youth from lighting up: strong smoke-free policies, hard-hitting media campaigns, high cigarette prices and robust tobacco prevention and cessation programs. By sustaining and expanding this comprehensive approach, we can save lives and create a tobacco-free generation.
If we’re going to end the tobacco epidemic, our efforts must focus on communities and populations in Queens with a higher prevalence of tobacco use and lower rates of quitting. Over the past five years, the Queens Smoke-Free Partnership has worked with health advocates and community organizations to raise awareness around smoking, specifically among immigrant and low-income communities. We also educate Queens youth and encourage them to speak out against the tobacco industry’s aggressive marketing tactics that lure kids into addiction.
We can break the cycle of sickness, disability and death if we make smoking less accessible, less affordable and less attractive.
CVS Caremark’s decision to stop selling tobacco will reduce access to cigarettes and help save lives. As the mother of a 2-year-old daughter, I don’t want CVS Caremark’s example to be the exception, but the rule. We must renew our commitment to eliminate tobacco use and protect our youth from addiction. Enough is enough. The time to start is now.