The majority of persons who become regular cigarette smokers begin smoking during adolescence. Comprehensive state anti-tobacco programs, especially those with strong advertising campaigns, have contributed to the substantial decline in adolescent smoking since 1997. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in Minnesota, annual funding for tobacco control programs was reduced from $23.7 million to $4.6 million in July 2003, ending the target market campaign directed at youths since 2000. An assessment of the effects of this cutback revealed that the percentage of adolescents who were aware of the campaign declined from 84.5% during July and August 2003 to 56.5% during November and December 2003, and the percentage of adolescents susceptible to cigarette smoking increased from 43.3% to 52.9%. These findings underscore the need to maintain adequate funding of state anti-tobacco programs to prevent tobacco use among youths. Because tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, efforts to prevent smoking initiation among youths can have a profound impact on public health. While cutbacks in state programs were occurring, the tobacco industry spent $11.2 billion in 2001 (the most recent year for which data are available), or $39 per person in the US, on advertising and promotion. These expenditures were 17% higher than the previous year and nearly double the amount spent on marketing in 1997. The decline in campaign awareness and increase in adolescent susceptibility in Min-nesota suggest that antitobacco funding cuts could reverse the recent declines in youth tobacco use.
(Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Vol. 53, No. 14, 2004)