THE BLOG

Tobacco Companies Are Undermining the Health of Our Kids

11/14/2013 01:12 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

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Today CDC published a report on tobacco use among middle and high school students.

For 2011-2012, there's been no change in cigarette use and the use of emerging tobacco products such as electronic cigarettes and hookahs is rising.

High school boys are now smoking cigars at about the same rate as cigarettes, and cigar use increased dramatically among African American high school students, more than doubling since 2009.

Traditional fat cigars are a small part of today's cigar industry. Newer types of cancer sticks include cigarette-sized cigars, or little cigars, designed to look like a typical cigarette but evade the taxes and regulations of cigarettes.

Kids are a prime target of these new products.

Little cigars are sometimes packaged in bright colors and, in stores, placed near gum and candy.

Unlike cigarettes, many are sold singly or in small, low-priced packs, at a fraction of the cost of a cigarette in most states.

They often have fruit and candy flavor additives that mask the harsh taste of tobacco. The flavors -- chocolate mint, watermelon, wild cherry and others -- are clearly attractive to children.

In 2011, at least a third of middle school and high school students who smoked cigars used flavored little cigars. Six states -- Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Wisconsin -- already have youth cigar smoking rates that are the same or higher than youth cigarette smoking.

Tobacco marketing often reaches children and youth and entices them to start using tobacco while they are still at an impressionable age.

Nearly four out of five high school cigarette smokers will become adult smokers, even if they intend to quit in a few years. By the time they want to quit, they're hooked.

Cigars, cigarettes and hookah tobacco are all smoked tobacco -- addictive and deadly. We need effective action to protect our kids from struggling with a lifelong addiction to nicotine.

We must work at federal, state and local levels to eliminate loopholes in restrictions on tobacco marketing, pricing and products that encourage children and youth to smoke.

I don't think it's too much to expect of our society that we protect our kids so they can reach adulthood without an addiction that can harm or kill them.