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Study Identifies Ways to Cut Teen Smoking by Nearly One-Third

July 12, 2004

Intense antismoking campaigns and a $1 cost increase per- pack of cigarettes could drastically reduce the number of young smokers in the U.S.

Intense antismoking campaigns and a $1 cost increase per- pack of cigarettes could drastically reduce the number of young smokers in the U.S.

Seattle, Wash.: Targeting teenagers with concentrated antismoking education campaigns and increasing the current cost of a pack of cigarettes by $1 could reduce the number of teenage smokers by 26%, helping more than 108,000 people in the U.S. survive to age 85, new research suggests. The study conducted by researchers at Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center and the University of Washington Child Health Institute will be published in the August issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

More than 80 percent of people who smoke as adults began before age 18. In 2000, approximately 27 percent of men and 23 percent of women were smokers at age 18. By the time this group turns 85, the researchers estimate more than 412,000 will die of smoking-related diseases. By comparison, drug abuse takes 20,000 lives annually.

"The number of lives that potentially could be saved due to smoking-prevention initiatives overshadows nearly all other public health measures," said Frederick P. Rivara, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of Washington Child Health Institute, and a pediatrician at Harborview Medical Center. "Reducing adolescent smoking won't cut smoking-related death rates for decades, but the size of the effect is great enough to make the attempt."

Dr. Rivara and fellow researchers analyzed results from antismoking campaigns and other deterrents used across the U.S. in the last ten to fifteen years.

"School-based programs are unable to decrease the long-term smoking incidence among adolescents and smoking bans and sale restrictions to minors haven't helped either," Rivara says. "However, analyzing previous research, we found that raising cigarette prices and disseminating concentrated multimedia antismoking campaigns does reduce adolescent smoking."

Rivara adds that the campaigns need to be repeated every year as new groups of children enter their teen years. Large, statewide multimedia campaigns in Massachusetts and California cut smoking rates by 6 percent to 12 percent.

To receive the full text of the study findings or to schedule an interview with Dr. Rivara, please call Jennifer Seymour, Media Relations Manager, Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, at 206-987-5207 or email jennifer.seymour@seattlechildrens.org.

About Seattle Children's Hospital

Consistently ranked as one of the best children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Children’s serves as the pediatric and adolescent academic medical referral center for the largest landmass of any children’s hospital in the country (Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho). For more than 100 years, Children’s has been delivering superior patient care and advancing new treatments through pediatric research. Children’s serves as the primary teaching, clinical and research site for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The hospital works in partnership with Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation. For more information, visit http://www.seattlechildrens.org.

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